Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Split Personality

I do a lot of advertising copywriting (which one could argue is a kind of fiction...) but I also write a lot of non-fiction: personal essay and memoir. I don't know why, it's just what I write.

In June, I read the first ten pages of my memoir at a writing workshop. A couple people commented that the voice of the narrator was bubbly and fun.

I considered this a good thing. But then I thought about something: the narrator is me. And I don't really consider myself to be bubbly or fun. So am I lying on the page? Am I a different person when I write? What is going on?

Truth in memoir is something that's discussed a lot. I want to come across honestly on the page, but sometimes I wonder which person is really me--the one on the page or the one sitting here in my living room, burning my eyes out from staring at the computer way too long? If we're really the same thing, they why do we seem so different? Is it just my strange perception of myself? Do all writers have bipolar disorder? Are writers abroad naturally more confused than others? Or is something else going on?

Anyone else experience this or have an opinion?

A quick note: Registration is filling fast for the Zurich Writers Workshop. If you'd like to attend, click here to register now.


  1. I've already rewritten this comment to myself several different ways, which just proves your point. My main point is that I know what you're saying - writing allows different aspects of ourselves to come out, stuff that surprises or even maybe frightens us. That's why it's fun and confusing.

  2. Great point. I guess that's why it's called "creative non-fiction". We can look at so many things, including ourselves, from different angles.

  3. Whenever I write personal essay or memoir, I think the opposite--that voice sounds darker than I like to think I am in real life. But the truth is, that is a part of me as much as my outgoing and funny side. Which voice comes out depends on the story you're trying to tell, I guess.

  4. I'm a rather mealy-mouthed middle-aged female, but I've been told that my best, 'truest' voice is snarky adolescent male.

    I think writing fiction lets us play with ideas and try on personalities like children playing at dressing up. The trick, I find, is to keep it consistent. From time to time, my Mom voice gets in the way of everything and I have to take a break.

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