My interest and specialisms when it comes to writing tend to cross over a bit. I’m an author of romantic comedies, I’m a student of creative business (mainly in how writers survive financially) and I’m training to be a creative therapeutic facilitator.
My main area of study at the moment is narrative therapy and its uses in helping promote positive body image and self-esteem. But in learning about narrative therapy, I find it really crosses over with how we see ourselves as writers (and how our readers see us.)
Narrative techniques basically get us to tell our stories- creating an order, a narrative and identifying themes and the importance of events in our lives. It’s about looking at our own lives the way we look at our fiction, teasing out the reasons, the hero’s motivations and those moments that really mean something. By looking at who we are within a narrative (and how we choose to cast ourselves- as a hero, a villain, a clown) we can see how we feel about ourselves. Self- knowledge is always powerful for a writer. Both in terms of feeling comfortable about their own work, and in being able to market themselves.
That’s where this crosses over with the creative business: branding. We have to know what makes us interesting in order to get readers hooked. Sure, if the book is good enough, the writer will become invisible, but if you want people to keep reading your books, if you want to have fans, then you have to have a story yourself, instead of just the ones you create.
Our narrative isn’t always our whole self, it can be a part. It doesn’t make it fake, but it’s about finding the parts of you that connect to your work, and that back up your experience. What’s more intriguing to you, a burlesque-dancer-turned-author who writes erotica, or a gardener who writes women’s fiction? You’re writing in your genre for a reason. In self-development books, you’re often asked to identify your why. And here’s the reason for that: who you are determines what you do. That’s fairly straightforward. If you’ve decided to write crime fiction, likelihood is, there’s something there that can be cultivated into a good reason as to why, beyond ‘I like it.’ Maybe you had an Agatha Christie themed birthday party as a kid, maybe there was a mysterious death in the family, maybe you read Harriet the Spy and never quite got over the dream.
When you introduce yourself to people, you’re interacting with your personal narrative- think about what you tell people, and why you tell them those particular things. All stories exist within contexts. You don’t tell your new boss that you’ve got eight different skinny dipping stories set in different countries. But if you write steamy novels, that might make a good hook.
Identify your ‘why’ and use it!