Write What's Difficult

Wednesday, August 22, 2018
At a meeting for all the English teachers in our county yesterday, our director said something that stuck with me. She mentioned that while kids can learn to appreciate the classics, books like Of Mice and Men aren’t the type of books that usually make a student a life-long reader. “Put the right book in the right set of hands,” she said. Find books which will resonate with students. Each kid has struggles in their life – some worse than others - but books can help get them through those tough times.

This really made me think about the kind of books I love the most. One of my favorites is about the struggle between two sisters. Another is about the elimination of individuality. And there’s an over-arching theme of the desire to belong in almost every book that holds a special place in my heart. I naturally identify with books that deal with difficult problems in my life.

And yet, I often avoid tackling these difficult issues in my books. It’s easy to understand why. These issues are so paramount in my own life that I’m hesitant to share them with the world, worried I might expose too much of myself. On top of facing my fears, I think I avoid these topics because I don’t want to relive them. Rehashing the past and the present can be painful.

Other times, my failure to write about these topics is less intentional. Sometimes, as a writer, I get so wrapped up in creating a new world, or focusing on a completely original topic, that I forget about the importance of relevant conflict. I have the tendency to read fiction that is nothing like my real life in an attempt to escape my problems . It’s the books that do touch on my psyche that impact me the most, however, so I need to remind myself to incorporate universal themes in my fantasy and paranormal works. Just because the book isn’t realistic fiction doesn’t mean it can’t be totally relevant to the modern reader.

The emotional stories are the ones which need telling. Base these topics in reality or in fantasy – either one is okay – but difficult topics matter. They got me through my own life, and they serve an important purpose. I might cry while writing them, but they have a very real place in books, and we’d be smart to do them justice.

Bethany Masone Harar is an author, teacher, and blogger, who does her best to turn reluctant readers into voracious, book-reading nerds. Check out her blog here and her website here.


Joanne said...

Beth, this is so true. I like the way you explained it and plan to link to this post (from a newsletter I do) so that others can read your post and benefit from your thoughtful insights.

Renee Roberson said...


I find that there are topics or experiences I've had sprinkled throughout my fiction, but I've always been a little hesitant to tackle essays because they are SO personal. I'm trying to face those fears right now by taking the "writing childhood narratives" class through WOW! It's been hard, but also liberating and I'm enjoying learning the process behind creative non-fiction.

Angela Mackintosh said...

Beth ~ When you said you avoid certain topics because you don't want to relive them, I do that too, and can totally relate. Sometimes I'm forced to go there because of writing class assignments, and thankfully, always find that it helps me let go and move on. I agree, the emotional stories are the ones that need telling. You have a lot of quotable sentences in this post! Thank you. :)

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