“How did you write that?” It is a question I get from time to time. The easy answer, “I am not sure, I just write.” It is the same question I would ask someone who paints portraits, “How do you do that?” But the easy answer is not the true answer. The true answer is that the actual writing, the ideas, the details I collect constantly in my head and twirl around, that is the easy part. The hard part is dealing with the thought of writing fiction while living in my non-fiction world.
My journey began as a child with reading. Reading was my world. I remember one time we had a tent in the backyard and I didn’t play in it, I read in it. I would have much rather been with books than most people. Looking back I can now identify what an active imagination I had. For example, a walk in the woods was not just a walk in the woods for me. I was thinking of stories, wondering what was ahead, “What if the Indians from the 1700’s still lived in them and no one had found them?” Reading, creating and imagining were gifts that I fully embraced. As I became an adult, my love of reading continued but there were countless books that I would stop reading because I would know where they were going, I hated the formula, I had read it before. I would think, “I could write something better than that.” Then at some point, I began writing. Many times it was an expression of self, sometimes stories written on scraps of papers and then tossed, poetry, ideas, lists, lists of details, moments stored in my head, details and details and details. This ultimately led to friends who pushed me off cliffs to put my work out to the public, to blogs, to people reading my work, to internal struggles about “what if my work sucks?” To being able to say “I am a writer.” I am not an aspiring writer, or want to write, but that I own it. Yes, I am a writer.
Like every good story, there is conflict and I have had a major conflict for quite some time. It is not with good vs. evil. It is with fiction vs. my non-fiction life. I am many things to many people. I am a daughter, a wife, a mom, a community member, a PTO participant, an elementary school volunteer, a friend, a traveler, a citizen of our town, a music lover, a beer drinker, a woman and writer. I often write short non-fiction life observations because that is all I have time for but my heart is in fiction.
The conflict I have had with fiction is writing about topics that I have not personally experienced or I know others who have personally experienced my topic and I think, “What gives me the right to explore that topic when I can only imagine how that feels or I know someone personally who has suffered that tragedy.” “Who am I to write about that?” “What if someone who I know reads it and they are hurt that I chose that topic so personal to them?” It has been a major hang up to overcome with the goal of writing a fictional book.
I have had many lengthy conversations about this topic with a friend who is a photographer and a friend who is an author. We have talked about self-editing, what is the creative process, what happens if you don’t proceed, the aspects of fiction vs non-fiction, the readers who I personally know and their point of view and in each conversation we come back to the same result, it is fiction and I am a writer.
Trust is not an easy thing for me. It never has been. But I recently realized that trust or lack of trust has crept into my creative process. That I have been more concerned with defending my subjects of choice and characters instead of letting the story develop into what it is supposed to be. Also that I need to trust where I am at in my process, with my journey and that I need to write the story, whatever the story or subject matter of the story is.
Moving forward, I will be writing less about my non-fiction life. It is time to take the next step into the world of fiction. I can’t wait to see what story is around the bend or what has yet to be imagined. Because, yes, at the end of the day, I am a mom, a wife, a daughter and a friend. But I am also beer drinker, a traveler, a creative person and I am a writer.