Writers Have Better Life Stories Than the Stories We Write

Photo Credit: Me! Taken at Haunted Bookshop in Iowa City, Iowa

One of my teachers told me I was a nihilist. He meant it as an insult but I took it as a compliment. -Susanna Kaysen

Human beings are the most versatile species in all of the Animalia Kingdom. I learned about the Animalia Kingdom by reading books, both fiction and non.

As a whole we’re able to date and choose our mate opposed to getting stuck with the most unappealing baboon in the troop, for one thing. Another, we raise families while simultaneously working jobs. We wear (fashionable) clothing and cook our food.

On an individual level we have numerous identities and wear many hats. As an example: I’m a female, wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend, introvert, bibliophile, writer and artist. I live with my family, a dozen cats and our pet snake Cornelius. I’m a vegetarian who grows the food I eat and I share several traits and habits with those who experience Autism.

The list goes on and there’s probably already 50–60 story ideas just within the previous 62 word paragraph.

All of these identities have written chapters of my life.

When asked who my favorite writers are I tell people my selection is based from their life story and not so much their written stories. There are many writers with impossible histories, triumphs and fulfillment of their true purpose of writing beautifully, enchanting us with their tales and carrying us off to places we may never have traveled to otherwise.

There are four, specifically, that come to mind.

Nellie Bly

Bly became a writer after submitting a response to an article in the local newspaper, The Pittsburgh Dispatch on the topic of women and how they are intended for childbearing and house cleaning. Impressed by her writing and persuasive argument the newspaper offered her a full time job. The year was 1880. Bly was 16 years old.

She would become one of the most historic journalists with credited investigations such as spending ten days in the Women’s Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell’s Island and traveling around the world in 72 days- transforming the fictitious tale, Around the World in 80 Days into fact.

She’s one of the first women to pave the way for female writers and journalists without knowing that we would in fact, one day need a paved way for women to progress in the career world.

Flannery O’Conner

O’Conner was the first female to be accepted into and attend the prestigious Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 1946, only five years after the program was founded through the University of Iowa.

In 1952 she was diagnosed with Lupus and returned home to Georgia where she was raised. She spent the next twelve years debilitated from treatment but nevertheless maintained a strict daily writing schedule and made regular public appearances for lectures of her works. During these years she published two novels, 32 short stories and received compensation for written reviews and commentaries.

Her story is of determination and strength. Her ability to continue to write, regardless of obstacles and barriers. She was fueled with passion for her craft.

I was told, “You’ll never get a good job.” I didn’t want a good job! As far as I could tell at eleven or twelve years old, like, people with good jobs woke up very early in the morning, and the men who had good jobs, one of the first things they did was tie a strangulation item of clothing around their necks. They literally put nooses on themselves, and then they went off to their jobs, whatever they were. That’s not a recipe for a happy life. -John Green

John Fante

Fante dropped out from the University of Colorado in 1929 and chose to move to Southern California to pursue a career in writing. Though his first attempts of being published were a failure, Fante believed in his dream and continued to press forward.

Over the course of five decades he would publish fifteen novels, three collections of selected short stories and his most famous, The Bandini Quartet were made into motion pictures. His fiction was considered psychological realism.

Fante published his final novel, Dreams from Bunker Hill in 1982. By then he had lost his eye sight and both legs to diabetes. He dictated his words to his wife, Joyce who typed for him. He dedicated the novel to her. He died less than a year later in 1983.

His story is of love and commitment. Even in the worst of times he and his wife were able to work through it together and make magic happen. The story of how Dreams from Bunker Hill came to be inspired me to read it and I have now read the entire Bandini Quartet, Ask the Dust is my personal favorite.

William Faulkner

Faulkner never received his high school diploma. He was a dreadful student with no interest in studies. In 1920 he was provided the opportunity to study writing at University of Mississippi because his father was an employee. After three semesters he dropped out.

Although Faulkner had published several novels he wasn’t making enough income to survive. He was offered a job at MGM studios in 1932 as a screenwriter. He had no passion for the job but it paid well. He spent his career as a screenwriter in Hollywood. During this time he would write and publish 23 novels.

He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1949, a Pulitzer in 1955 and 1963, and a National Book award in 1951 and 1955. In 1962 he died of complications from a horse riding injury.

His accomplishments are an indication of what hard work and dedication can accomplish, even without completing any type of formal education. Faulkner improved his skill as he worked his way up the ranks with his writing, winning awards and entertaining a large chunk of the population who enjoy his movies along the way.

There’s a variety of topics and genres I enjoy reading and writing. I love research, learning new things and turning those ideas into stories. At the same time, I feel my most intense and passionate connection with readers is my personal experience with my mental health and ubiquitous addiction in my family.

I was raised in an abusive household, grew up in poverty and had no hope for the future. I’ve conquered environmental, genetic and emotional circumstances.

I can’t say at times I haven’t experienced defeat but I’m a better person than I ever believed I could be. I’ve worked hard. On days I feel depressed I write and channel those feelings. On days I feel manic I push myself to overachieve. On days I don’t want to leave the house I spend the day in my pajamas.

My goal as a writer is to inspire a positive impact on others and to build a connection with those who share my struggles, or those who have someone in their life who does. We are truly going to be okay. The do’s and the don’ts. All of us.

It’s my story and some day I’ll write it, but for now I’m still adding chapters and would prefer to wait until it has a happier ending.

Newspaper reporter in Eastern Iowa. The views expressed are mine alone.

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