The one thing I can’t stand about my readers is that you assume everything I write is autobiographical. Maybe not ALL my readers, but the ones who talk to me assume this. And honestly, the rest of you who don’t talk to me probably assume it too but just don’t say anything, so I take it back. This is what I hate about ALL my readers. I hate it. It drives me up the wall. It makes me crazy. And this is why:
First Of All
When you come to me and ask me if something is about me, you are never really asking. You think you already know the answer. You assume everything I write is autobiographical and are only looking for confirmation to fuel your need for delicious scandal. It’s not like you casually assume and then when corrected are reasonable and reconsider your stance. No. When I tell you that something is not about me, you argue! You tell me it is! Wouldn’t I know? You tell me it must be. Maybe you recognize some elements, maybe you recognize my humor. Maybe you recognize a bag or an event or a song that I like. And so you conclude, incorrectly, that my writing is all about me, pulled straight from my life like you are on to something, all knowing you, and you know better than me.
What’s worse is when I dismiss your claims or don’t budge into confession like you want, you will then say that all the best writers write what they know. Oh really? Really! So now you are trying to make me feel inadequate for not writing in accordance with that platitude you learned in 6th grade English? For not taking your bait and admitting that you in fact know more about me than I do about my writing because you are a reader? That’s rich. You should write a book about that.
Is this to satisfy your hunger to be right, to know more than me, to think you are in on something, to tell me who I am and who I can be? I assure you, you will get nowhere with this line of thinking.
I can also assure you that the best writers write what they want to write. Whether that is autobiographical, biographical, historical, romantic, religious, controversial, psychological, fantastical, psychedelical or even diabolical. Why the hell would anyone limit themselves to what they know? Stop talking crazy. Great writers write what the fuck they want to write. The end.
That’s Not All!
Don’t think you are so important as to actually have access to my personal life, inner thoughts, private feelings, wants and fears. I am really not that open and available and most importantly, you are really not that special. Knowing me intimately is a very special thing that very few have experienced. If you are foolish enough to think I would share every last detail of my life with a bunch of total strangers, you are too foolish to be someone to know me in that way.
And Another thing!
Don’t insult my imagination by proclaiming that I am merely a reporter of events. I may not be the best writer you’ve ever read, and you may not like what I write but I don’t just casually write things down that are coincidentally evocative and effective. I wasn’t just born with a writer bone that bends every which way like a double jointed thumb. I’ve been writing as a craft for many years, stretching my creative tendons, tearing at emotional ligaments and cracking through mental bone to make my writing bend like that. When you feel something, react to something, want something in my writing I did that to you. I made you feel that. And it wasn’t easy.
I may not be the best at it but I’m a lot better than I used to be a year ago, five years ago, fifteen years ago, twenty five years ago. Yes, I’ve been trying to learn how to do this well for a damn long time. I’ve had teachers, workshops, critics, you name it who have helped me get better so that you could enjoy that moment you liked. I practiced and practiced to get it right so I could put you through that thing you felt. That was me working. I’m a writer. I weave, I create. My work is a fabulous combination of inspiration, dedication and hard work. And let’s not forget the sacrifices of time and sanity that those many teachers, editors and readers who came before you suffered through to get me where I am today. F*ck you for making me out to be small.
Don’t over inflate my life to believe that my life, the situations around me, the circumstances I find myself in have greater interest, relevance, curiosity, absurdity and intrigue to make my writing more powerful. My life is just as trivial and boring as yours. My life is also just as chaotic and exciting as yours. My life is filled with joy and pain, just like yours. My life is not that special. I am special, as a writer, because I can pull from the bits that I can use and mash them into something. But I am not *more* special than you or anyone else. I can create using something that I saw you go through or that I invented. I can use as little or as much as I want, mixing with fantasy, absurdity, nonsense, in any portion sizes I want to create the specific mental potion I want to feed to you. I had to learn how to do this. I’m still learning.
I’m Still Talking!
You just completely ignore your whole role in this. If a story were all about me and my life and my words, then what would be the ever-loving point of writing it down, editing, proofreading, revising, throwing it away and starting over like I do all the damn time. What would be the purpose of thinking and ruminating and obsessing for weeks and years on a story line when I could just kinda think it through in the shower one time and be done with it? The point is the reader. The entire point of it all is the reader and how you react, what you feel, what you make of what I say. When you go to a movie and it’s not the same as the book, that’s because the director as reader had a different experience than you. When your friend liked the anecdote in chapter one that you barely remembered but your sides were splitting near the end that’s because your friend brought something different to the page than you did. Reading creative writing is not an exchange of story for time. It is not me dispensing a story into your brain like a bottle that can be emptied down your throat. It is a shared experience. I describe at most 30% of what the story really is and you fill in the rest. That character who resembles someone you know or that brings back that feeling you had? I didn’t know about that crap! That’s all you. The eagerness you feel to get to the next part? That’s your wanting, your curiosity, your momentum. I’m just here giving you a little something to work with.
So please, readers. You’re selling us all short. Writing and reading are active verbs. You have to be present and involved. You are a part of the process not a recipient.
And besides all that when it comes down to it, my characters are all flawed and I, obviously, am flawless.