Reaching Into the Well


I write about life—anecdotal and narrative essays. This is what I do.

I have a blast trying my hand at flash fiction, short stories, and have been working on twelve books for twenty years but, really, my writing is mostly personal.

To do this, you need to dig, break up some earth, to get to the gems.

I don’t.

I skim.

My words are leaves and bugs floating on top of a pool and, when I write, I’m just using one of those mesh things to get the stuff on the surface.

You can come up with a net full of fascinating material doing that, but there is often a lot of debris in the water or on the bottom of the pool. When you kick up some of the stuff that’s been resting undisturbed, interesting things can happen.

Charli Mills, who invites writers to share their flash fiction every week at Carrot Ranch, once commented that I write “deep”—that I have a well I can reach into for my writing. It was a lovely compliment but made me question myself and my process.

If this well is there (and I think it is), why am I not reaching into it?

Why can I write so deeply about a fictional character but not dive in when I write about myself?

This seems an easy question to answer. Probably fear.

I’m a pretty introspective person so it’s not that. I can easily look inside myself and see the beautiful broken pieces, the harsh edges, the softness. I have journals full of hurt and anger and love but I don’t want to write about these things. It’s not something I’m ready to do. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to. For now, I’ll skim and joke and poke fun at myself and my life. Occasionally, I’ll accidentally write a serious piece.

I’m okay with that.

I wonder, though, how all these other writers—memoirists and essayists—pull from their wells and share such poignant moments and memories.

Sarah Brentyn Sailboat Skimming - sig

Do you write personal pieces? Does this make you feel vulnerable? Do you skim or reach into your well of memories?