“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” – Maya Angelou
Writing short fiction for me typically begins with an idea, a character, or a general plot summary. Where it takes me is often unchartered territory. Only with the passage of time and distance can I see the common themes of my work.
In my book I Remember Clifford and Other Stories, I discovered I was exploring identity, the loss of a father, finding one’s voice, and feeling and processing emotions, especially around grief. These stories served as a creative expression and as a cathartic journey for me and my continued growth as an emotional human being. I include a short reflection after each story to describe how it came about and what I attempted to do to further the development of my craft. What I didn’t realize until after bringing them all together was the progress I made not only in finding my voice but in my emotional development.
Grief is a process, and I find it very personal. Though it was not my intention, I found healing in my creative writing by learning to understand and accept the loss. Character development enabled me to explore actions and behaviors that weren’t necessarily my own but alternatives to what I would have done. This ultimately led to furthering my empathy and compassion. As someone who has studied and written about emotional intelligence, I believe reading novels improves our ability to empathize. Perhaps writing effective fictional characters demands this empathy.
Having lost my father when I was just 19, I don’t believe grief really goes away, but I’ve been able to find a place for it in my heart that enables me to continue living with it. Processing thoughts and feelings in a journal throughout my life provided a pathway to writing fiction. The creative process is certainly messy and doesn’t always lead to a finished product. However, writing short fiction allowed me to explore alternatives in processing my thoughts and feelings and, ultimately, what I believe are engaging stories.
Perhaps writing these eight stories and the events that inspired them led to my going to graduate school to study human behavior. As I was greatly inspired by the challenges and wisdom of emotions, this ultimately led to my change in career and becoming an executive coach. No telling what creative expression will lead to, but I believe it’s important for all of us.
Mark Craemer was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, named after parks and fields, and moved to the Pacific Northwest in 1979. Taking a break from higher education, Mark rode a bicycle across the United States twice before completing his bachelor’s degree in journalism at the University of Oregon. He earned a living in diverse ways, including as a bartender, laborer, taxi driver, public relations officer, freelance writer, and photographer, and 16 years in marketing roles in high-tech companies. Mark received a master’s degree in applied behavioral science in 2007 and now offers leadership coaching and organization development services through his company Craemer Consulting. His first book, Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace, was published in 2020. I Remember Clifford and Other Stories is his first book of fiction, which he self-published in 2021. Mark lives in Seattle with his family.