I wrote about what happened with my birds during a marathon writing session late the night before last. It wasn't easy. I was still grieving. I think, though, that what came out was some pretty powerful stuff.
Part of me wants to defend my original position, or parts of it, by saying that the entertainment portion of writing gets left behind when a person turns their writing into a pulpit, or a confessional, or whatever. But I should have been the last person to say such a thing. After all, I'm one of those sad cases that turns to the advice column in the newspaper. I'm entertained, sometimes enthralled, sometimes appalled by the drama.
And when I griped about one of my favorite authors turning his fantasy series into a venue in which he explored his divorce, what I ought to have realized was that although it wasn't my thing, it may well have been great for someone else. Maybe there were heaps of people in the midst of ugly divorces that liked the way the series went. Since my gripe about that series, my favorite example of how not to include your life experience in your writing, turns out not to be valid, I can't really hold any kind of writing-as-therapy work as a mistake.
I do think that it makes the writer vulnerable. Sometimes opening the soul publicly can be good and fine thing, but it's not something I could undertake lightly. Rape victims who write rape scenes ... what would criticism of that book, especially that scene, do? On the other hand, writing about trauma might help people own it. I know I felt better after I wrote. It might even help someone else in a similar situation feel better too.
So maybe it just boils down to this: recognize the level of exposure, and remember that once the story is published, it really isn't the author's anymore. It belongs to the reader. If the story is too personal to be given to someone else to do with whatever they want to do ... then maybe it needs to remain private.
There's definitely a skill to it, though. I've heard that editors and agents dread 'divorce novels.' That's just a rumor, but I do think that it's a valid caution. In order for a story to be emotionally satisfying for the reader, they have to be allowed to connect. I think that's why the fantasy series ultimately failed for me. The author wrote it in the midst of something I had never experienced, and interjected all kinds of stuff from his life I couldn't identify with. If he'd set me up from the beginning, maybe it would have been brilliant. But I came in at the middle, or maybe even toward the end of his personal drama, and he poured out those personal feelings in the middle of a series to boot. With no groundwork, with nothing explained, all I knew was that the characters I'd loved started to go crazy for no apparent reason.
I think it would be easy to over-think and doubt and all that--and that can destroy a story too. So I've thought about it, and in time I'll internalize it into my writing. The one thing I hope I won't do is start worrying about it every time I sit to type. In the end, it's all about the story, whether its the story of my dreams, or the story of my life. I hope both will be rich and wonderful things.