Let's face it...everything we write is autobiographical to some extent. Yet, when faced with the task of actually focusing on ourselves...yikes! I was recently asked to write an essay about myself. For fifty years I've safely hidden behind fiction, and when cornered about what was real and what wasn't, I let readers guess for themselves. That gives them the power they deserve...to decide...and I like that. Readers should always be in control of meaning.
When I began writing about myself in ernest, I had trouble knowing where to start. So, a friend of mine suggested writing creative non-fiction. It was an ah-ha moment. This method allowed me to phrase my life in a way that hardly separated it from the pure fiction I'd been writing for so long. So, I began with this:
Small North American towns are where dreams are made in the shade of an oak tree, or at a family barbecue. Dreams may gather on cloudy days as you’re having a beer, sitting in that broken down lawn chair in the back yard. They float in on the wind, and you wish they’d stay, but they usually drift away.
Memories that you carry of small towns blossom into myth, and as a result, if you return years later, disappointment follows. The town doesn’t feel the same. You can’t recapture what’s been lost in the winds of time.
The writing took off after that. I was able to highlight one of the most important and cathartic moments of my life—the day my cousin Russell Vossler was invited as a guest speaker, and finally spoke up about his experiences in Vietnam...in front of a class full of high school honors students.
So...if you're writing something that is deeply personal, and your balking because it's so damned uncomfortable...try what I did. Make it creative.