Thursday, October 4, 2007


I've already written in my column today what I thought about Peppermint Creek's Fiction. However, like most good plays, certain ideas from it have been teasing me ever since I saw it.

While I share a career with the two main characters, I didn't identify with them much. Now, this may be because my writing is primarily non-fiction. Mostly, though, it's because people's approaches to writing are as varied as the writers themselves. Michael talks about how he doesn't like writing, but he likes to "have written." He would rather be surrounded by people than engaged in the solitary act of writing.

My approach to writing is far closer to Alan Alda's approach to speaking, at least as he describes in his book Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself. He describes time and again how he accepts invitations to speak to groups and then is terrified because he feels he isn't qualified to do it. I find writing terrifying. It's why I have to do it. It's much like the desire some have to ride roller coasters or jump out of helicopters. It's terrifying, but it is also compelling and demanding.

One thing I have liked about a blog is that it invites me to sit and write without a lot of the terror attached. I'm not worrying over every word or hyperventilating about getting started on a project that I'm convinced I'm not qualified to do.

The most difficult part of writing is getting started--not because I don't enjoy the task of writing, but because I've managed to convince myself that I don't have anything interesting to say; that I don't know how to manipulate words; that I'll never be able to get on paper the ideas that are brewing in my head. I'm fully convinced that I humiliate myself every time I let anyone else read what I've written and that people are simply too nice to tell me to find other work.

Then I write. And still I dislike what I've written. I can't remember ever being satisfied with anything that I've written upon first finishing it. I'll go back and re-read it and cringe over the numerous errors that I find. I'll rewrite and then be convinced that I've written all my initial passion and authenticity out of the piece. Finally, I make myself let it go, convinced that while it isn't good, at least it doesn't suck. If I'm able to re-read it 24 hours later, I'll decide that it's not bad. When I re-read it a year later, I think it's pretty good and catch myself wondering why I can't write like that anymore...

It all sounds tortuous, doesn't it? And yet, I'll tell people truthfully that I love what I do. I love it because it forces me to push myself all the time. It forces me to be vulnerable where I don't want to be vulnerable. It forces me to be open where I want to hide. It forces me to create and to look upon my creation rather than to wallow in insecurity and uncertainty. Sure, the vices are there, but they get channeled into something productive rather than being allowed to take me over.

During the Fiction talkback, I thought about how much more difficult it is to share fantasy than to share fact. Michael is willing to let Linda believe that his fantasy is fact. I believe part of that is because it is less humiliating. It's far easier to share the details of one's life than it is to share what one fantasizes about. The former is a mixture of choices and events outside one's control. The latter is one's own imagination, one's own creation. It is the expression of a person's soul. It's far more difficult to accept a criticism or judgment of one's soul than it is of one's actions.

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