As I’m sure you know, dear Reader, sometimes the hardest thing about writing is allowing yourself to do it. To give yourself space without judgment or self-editing or a critical eye. Actually, let me give that statement some context. It’s easy to write from emotion & think that the rawest sentences are insight or the most painful details are depth.
It is much harder to write with intent, to try & guide a story even as it revealing itself to you. At the best of times, this type of writing is a push/pull situation. What details are important? How much info is too much? Is that character really important or is it just me?
I’m working on a new piece & these are the questions that I’m struggling with. It’s actually a new fiction piece, which I haven’t done much of since Justin & I ended our collaboration on Rule #1. Fiction has gotten harder for me to write as the years pass & I’m not entirely sure why. I used to get so enamored of an image or a person that I was driven to create a story around them. Now I find myself writing more & more non-fiction essays.
Maybe it’s because I haven’t totally shaken off the term paper influence of my undergrad work. Work that was compounded with blogging & various freelance journalism assignments. It’s not that I can’t do fiction any more; I just have to work harder to get into that head space. It can get incredibly frustrating.
A few months ago, I stumbled across an old journal from nearly 10 years ago. It was filled with an elaborate story I was writing for myself. As I read back over the pages, I had a few powerful sensory recollections. Not only did the feel of writing the original words come back to me, the pictures that had been in my head came back with the rich colors & textures I had tried to capture. Since rediscovering the story, I’ve tried to keep adding to it, but the experience isn’t the same. I start & stop, uncertain where to explore next. I think, “Fuck! How to I get back there?”
The problem, I think, is trusting that something will grow from the material I get down. A non-fiction piece that I most proud of (& that is currently making the submission rounds) grew out of pages & pages of unedited thoughts on my experiences with tattoo artists, my father’s tattoos & piercings, the religion I grew up in, & many other disparate ideas.
There was tons of stuff I didn’t use, but I knew the seed was there. With this new fiction piece I’m working on, I’m not so sure. I keep thinking back to what Flannery O’Connor said, that a short story is defined by something actually happening. Then I think, Oh, it’s not enough that I’m enamored of a stranger I see for two minutes as I pass by. Overthinking, as I usually do. Push & pull. I wish I could let go, fall back & catch myself in the act of discovery.