Someone asked me a few days ago how much of myself I put into my writing. I replied that was a hard question to answer. And even having thought about it for almost a week, I still can’t answer the question in full. The only answer I can give directly is that I don’t consciously put any of my self in my writing. I have never written a character based on me. Since I write science fiction, I make up fictitious worlds and develop people to fit those worlds. Many of the inhabitants on those worlds are much different from humans. They do what I want, and I try to make them act reasonably and logically for those worlds (people on another world aren’t always going to act like us here on Earth). Still, there must be traits that are common to all forms of life everywhere (I admit that’s a debatable proposition and may not be true at all. But…). A science-fiction story may be a good place to put myself in as a character, or to give one or more characters some of my own traits, but so far I haven’t. I wonder how many authors have.
But that’s probably not what my friend was asking. I suspect all of us writers put some of themselves in their writing even if they don’t intend to. Writing is such a solitary and personal activity, it must be hard to not to take a part of yourself and cram it into your writing. In fact, I wonder if that’s what writing is all about–putting ourselves down on paper or on a com screen for all to see. I wonder if the act of making up fictitious characters is our way of letting the world know what we really think and feel and wonder about. Of telling the world what we want to say without coming out and saying it. At their very basic levels, our characters are us, whether we like it or not. We cannot write without saying how we feel about life, about other people, about civilizations, about the universe. A memoir and an op-ed piece are the forms of writing that allow us to do that directly and openly. Fiction and, to a certain extent, poetry, on the other hand, obscure who we are to the point that readers may not understand what is made up and what is really us.
As I write this, I’m listening to classical music. Different composers have different styles, and it certainly must be true that composers put themselves into their music in a big way. Tchaikovsky is much different from Mozart, but Tchaikovsky bears some similarities to other Russian composers of the late 1800’s. Theirs was a very nationalistic style and their music is a reflection of themselves. Writers ditto.