Why write? Why write for public consumption?
Writing is how I make things real, and I choose to live in the real world.
The indescribably joyous moments which seem almost too fleeting and precious to put into words. The fears that keep you awake in the middle of the night and the frustrations that bog you down during the course of the day. The things that make you shake your head when you get a look at your local newspaper’s front page, or the incomprehensibly stupid conversations you overhear between the Stepford moms in the schoolyard at five minutes to the bell.
“Write what you know” is usually the first rule we hear when setting out on that journey. It’s the easiest thing to write, or is supposed to be, because writing is an act of introspection, of instinctively trying to capture thoughts in words on paper, and the question of whether or not they can be coerced into making sense verbally is never one that needs to be answered. The act of writing is one way I have come to know myself and the way I feel about a growing variety of subjects, and in the privacy of the pages of my notebook or the Documents file on my laptop, I have permission to experience a range of emotions which are not always permissible to share with others in as raw or as untenable a state as they can appear there. The fact that I choose to share some of them through blogging is to me a measure of my growth as a writer, and is a source of pride, though tempered still with a measure of self-doubt.
The act of writing is something I voluntarily separated myself from for many years, and when I took it up again, after marriage and three children, thanks to a friend who encouraged me and wouldn’t take “no, I can’t anymore” as an answer, I struggled for a time to find my voice. I wondered why I was having such a hard time, because, especially through university, writing was a joyous act in itself. I took Liberal Studies, English literature and medieval history, I knew all my professors by their first names, and because of the informal nature of many of our class seminars, I was able to explore a creative avenue even in essay writing. I wrote my eight essays, at ten thousand words apiece, for my Shakespeare class as a series of undiscovered pamphlets, which you may know was a common way of being published at that time, in a reasonable facsimile of Shakespearean English. My eighteenth century poetry professor was delighted with my final essay on Alexander Pope, written in rhyming couplets. Eighteen years later, I could not understand where the ability, once second nature, to express myself creatively on paper had gone.
As much as I hate to say it, the condom in the seminal act of creative expression was my living situation. I say that I hate to say it, because for a long time I would have described myself as happily married, but in retrospect, I realize that it wasn’t so much that I was happy with my life as it was that certain aspects of it gave me happiness, my three children paramount. I understood finally, and it was a long and difficult process to arrive at that understanding, that my husband and I hadn’t had things in common, as much as that we had common goals, a laundry list if you will, and that once those items had been ticked off, we had very little to say to each other. A stay-at-home mother who didn’t drive and lived in a rural community, my world became a very small place. Making my computer a friend became a natural thing, and so I began to write again.
Write what you know. I knew I was struggling to understand how I felt, and why, and that seemed like a good place to start. That was the birth of my blog, or Notes, on Facebook. My friends list, which began as people from school or work, came to include strangers, friends of friends who read my pieces through comment links that appeared off my profile, people who liked what I wrote. That was a huge boost to my hungry and fragile writer’s ego, because it finally convinced me that I COULD write...they had no need to stroke my ego because they weren’t “friends”, therefore their praise was independent of any personal relationship, and somehow more trustworthy. Does it sound stupid to say that their appreciation was more valid? Stupid or not, that was how it felt in the beginning. My ego is a little sturdier now.
Finding my voice, as I said, was difficult at first. I resisted the first person narrative for awhile, because even when writing fiction, it appears at first blush that you are writing about your own experiences, and that is never more true than when writing erotica, especially when a jealous spouse is one of your readers. Once I stopped fighting that natural tendency, it was so much easier, and I tentatively started posting erotic vignettes on LiveJournal. A teacher of mine once encouraged me to compose a complete character sketch of anyone I ever created in my head, right down to a birth date. Once that character comes to life in your brain, he told me, once you can immerse yourself in that headspace, the story will be easier to write. A reader once told me, months later, I have never met you, and I have no idea who you are in real life, but I have made love with you dozens of times in my imagination...you move me to passion with your words, and for that I thank you.
About four years ago, I got a brief and shining opportunity to be a paid ghostwriter for an elderly lady who believed she had a story to tell. I interviewed her for hours, took miles of notes, and she was excited about what I produced, but in the end, she decided not to continue. She had suffered from depression, been hospitalized and underwent shock treatment, abused drugs and alcohol, felt that she shamed her Christian family by having sex when she wasn’t married. While I respected her choice, I told her that I wished she’d made a different decision, and she told me that if I ever wanted to use the material she gave me as the basis for a story to feel free to do so. And someday, I will.
I choose to live in the real world, and writing helps me to do that. Without my pen and notebook, without my computer and my blogs/notes, without the opportunity to work things out in my head to achieve a measure of peace and acceptance, without the ability to capture feelings with words to prevent them from swamping me in mental miasma, I would not have made it through the disintegration of my marriage and feeling guilted into leaving my home and relocating away from my children.
I would not, without the willing punching bag of my laptop and a few friends I would trust with my life, have been able to deal with the revelation that my oldest daughter, now fifteen, was molested by my father-in-law when he lived with us, the summer she turned eight. When I thought about that filthy f**king bastard putting his hands on her, defiling my beautiful innocent girl, I was incoherent with rage and nausea. I burned to write it, to get the noise of the buzz saw out of my ears, to help choke back the scream that was just behind my tongue.
I deleted my LiveJournal account when I realized my ex-husband was reading it. I don’t post very frequently on Facebook anymore. Now that my daughters have accounts, it is no longer a safe place to write the angry things, the selfish things, the depressed things, the frustrated things. I’ve written a lot of frankly incoherent things over the last couple of years and chose not to put them anywhere at all.
That is, was, has been, reality. I could ignore it, submerge it, and go mad...or I could write about it, and stay sane.
The choice is obvious, isn’t it?