Melanie Milburne is guesting at the Pink Heart Society as she talks about what we can learn about ourselves through writing.
I wanted to be a writer from the age of four when I first understood what reading and the written word was all about. The transportation into other people’s lives and worlds was fascinating to me. But it took me a long while to write my first novel.
What is it about a woman turning forty that makes her finally summon the courage to claim her life’s dream?!
However the process of writing over sixty-five books has taught me much more about myself than any other formal study I’ve undertaken. Crafting believable characters requires a writer to actually become their characters like actors who take on a role. Accessing parts of your personality (or sub-personalities as some refer to it) can be a powerful way of discovering who you (or your characters) really are.
The Four Basic Forms of the Self:
The Public Self is what you and others see in you. Generally you are not uncomfortable discussing with others this part of yourself. Just take a look around social media to see this in action.
The Private or Hidden Self is what you see in yourself but others do not. This in where you hide things that are private and deeply personal about yourself. Shame, fear of exposure, having your weaknesses or faults broadcast are powerful reasons to keep this part of your personality hidden. This is definitely not the stuff you want to see on Facebook and Twitter! It also applies to your good qualities that you might not want to broadcast due to modesty.
The Blind Self is what you do not see in yourself but others see in you. This is where things get really interesting. You might consider yourself as non-judgmental and accepting but others might consider you closed minded and bigoted. Conversely, you might consider yourself not very smart and lacking worthwhile skills while others might consider you exceptionally bright and talented. It can be quite challenging to overhear someone talking about you.
I often ask my characters as I’m crafting them to answer this question:
What do people say about you behind your back?
The Undiscovered or Unknown Self is the self you cannot see nor others around you. There might be both good and bad things that are out of your awareness and that of others. But what has this to do with writing?
Understanding yourself is the most useful tool in understanding others and that includes the characters you create.
When I’m writing from the hero’s point of view I have to think and feel and act like he would. Or when I’m writing from a heroine’s point of view who is nothing like me I have to become her, to take on her thoughts, opinions and emotions. This has been one of the most revolutionary things in my personal life. The ability to switch places with someone who is not me nor anything like me is extremely powerful.
I often watch politicians debating and wonder if they ever thought of taking up the other’s argument. If they did so they would soon see the flaws in their own argument and the strengths in the opposition’s.
Try it some time. Next time you’re having a disagreement with someone ask him or her to switch places. We used to do it with our boys when they were young. We would swap chairs at the dinner table and they would then act like whoever usually sat in that chair. It was hilariously funny but also incredibly revealing.
My latest release is the second book in a two-part first person Medical duet I wrote after meeting the Australian media personality Joe Hildebrand at a TV interview. I had read his memoir of his interesting and wacky childhood and it inspired me to write about two sisters who had grown up with hippy parents.
Does writing help you discover things about yourself?
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