I’ve decided to stop fighting it.
What exactly? I was driving home yesterday contemplating, once again, my writing woes. My ever-encouraging twitter friend, Friederike, tweeted a word to me the other day:
“Very often, our characters tell us what they are up to. We must take our time and wait a little to find out what they want.”
And then, in response to my whiny, “But what to do while I wait for them to speak to me?” Friederike said, “Have a coffee and watch your soul while you are waiting for your characters to do the work.”
Again, an all too wise response to my needlessly worrisome writing self. At that point, I was asking myself what characters are speaking to me. Do I even have any? I was never planning on being a fiction writer. But is that what she meant, and does fiction versus nonfiction make any difference here?
In the midst of my brain working through this idea, my ears were half-listening to my car radio, which was faithfully playing NPR’s All Things Considered. The host was interviewing a writer that just published a new novel. What was his inspiration and theme behind the book, she asked? I was suddenly all ears.
The writer explained that his work centered around the belief that home is not always where we are most welcome or a place that we can take refuge from a misunderstanding world. What happens to people who live with that discord?
For reasons I cannot explain, his description of pulling together his ideas into a novel pulled together my own disjointed ideas about what it means to write.
I’ve been fighting for a long time the idea that I should write fiction. It seems to me that any attempt I’ve made is not literary, but a deep-seeded and irresistible need to reconcile misunderstandings in my life – people, experiences, memories, social, political and religious issues. Every version of my fiction has been some attempt to tie those things together so that I can make sense of them, or remove them from myself. Like Dumbledore’s Penseive, my writing extracts those things that will not rest within myself until they’ve poured out of me onto the page in black and white, where I can examine every detail. (Kudos to J.K. Rowling for that concept. I wonder if she ever thought about that in terms of her own writing experience?)
This isn’t right, I tell myself. Great writers don’t turn their lives into fiction for a good story. There’s always that speculation that something within their works – a character or a scene or a setting is a fictionalized, dramatized version of something real to the author. But many authors would, and have, denied those theories outright. And then the critics and readers idolize them: “He’s just that genius that the work is entirely fictional!”
Underneath the guise of literary genius, every good piece of writing has soul, and what is soul but personality, your collection of beliefs, experiences, passions, and talents that are not quite like anyone else’s?
This is what I’m not going to fight anymore: you, dear readers, friends, loves of my life (and people I might not necessarily get along with) are the interesting characters that fill my thoughts and speak to me. Experiences and memories, you are a part of who I am. I am passionate about you. I am inspired by you. I know you and you know me. You drive me to words. Black, white, gray, and every color and shade in between. You speak to my soul, and I’m listening, truly listening now.
After all, life is stranger than fiction, right? So don’t be surprised if some version of you lies within my words. I won’t be surprised, anymore. I may not pen the great American novel any time soon, or ever, but this is what I know.
I won’t go against the grain anymore, for you are ingrained in me.