I Know Nothing: Me on the Page

One of the hardest things for me to accept was that, once I got past the first few bits of flash fiction or first short story or the start of my series of trunked novels, the only thing between me and the page were words.

I didn’t truly understand what this meant until today. Every time I forge my way into the depths of Seal Tales, whether it’s outlining or writing real words, I have ended up peeling back layers of myself. I had no idea that every time I dipped into the virtual inkwell, what I was writing on the screen was in my own blood.

That is, to put the feeling in entirely overblown and melodramatic terms at which others may laugh at me (and certainly will, you can count on it, with justification).

And yet at the same time, it doesn’t feel like I’m exagerating at all. In fact, I may be triggering myself as I explore what it means, really means, to suddenly end up with a bartered freedom from a nightmare, a freedom that will surely expire. You’d think I’d already know, having lived that life, but I tend to be oblivious to my own past, a way of mentally surviving what a lot of people would call awful times.

The times of Zorn and Tharn, torn open and bleeding on the page like so many dead rabbits.

I was asking for it when I put a facsimile of myself on the page, to engage in fun adventures, and now that’s no longer the case—or at least, if that will be the case, it’ll take a while to work all the way there.

There’s another part of me on the page that’s the research student who chose a dead-end path, but that’s nothing compared to what the other character is going through.

And of these two parts of me, I’m asking one to eventually love the other. This is something I’ve never managed to do for myself.

You can bet there are more issues, since the villain is basically how I see my father, an internalized version of him that is likely more monstrous and powerful than the real thing (not that my father wasn’t a monster; he was just less of one). When he appears in my outline, the pace skyrockets and the stakes go higher as he turns up the pressure and time, slivered by the very forces who were supposed to help, runs out.

Therapy on the page, some say, is not good for readers or writers. You should keep your problems to yourself and write the marketable stuff. It’s better for your sanity, your readers’ sanity, and the sanity of any agents or editors you may stumble upon on the way. More dangerously, it can lead to a preciousness about your text that can only be detrimental when you deal with others.

But I can’t help but think about the times when it seemed like other authors were working out issues of their own, and done in the right, non-self-absorbed way, made for interesting reading.

I can only go onwards, despite my growing fear of my own manuscript. Tonight I spent quite a while procrastinating; this week, that will continue, since I need to finish several thousand words of performance reviews for me and my peers.

But I’ll be back. A break is not fatal; never returning, on the other hand, is. Obviously.

And perhaps when it’s all done, I can be mature enough to find that distance necessary from the text, to keep this novella from being trunked for the greater good. Even if I don’t, it’ll have given me the backstory I need for one of my otherwise shallow characters for The Pantheon Plot, which is much more light-hearted.

Gods, I hope it is.

2 thoughts on “I Know Nothing: Me on the Page

  1. It’s not just you. I forget which published author said it, but he/she said: “Writing is easy. You just open a vein and bleed all over the page.”

    And I think the thing about ‘writing as therapy is bad’ is that if it’s *just* therapy for you personally, there’s no reason for anyone else to read it. But there are reasons so many writers do multiple drafts, and one of them is that you can begin by writing it all down, getting out what you need to get out of your brain and onto a page, and then you can go back and re-shape the piece into an actual story.
    Which may even resonate with some other people’s experiences.

    • Yeah, I’m writing for both myself and for an audience that’s not just me. If only because I don’t like to read stuff that’s just my own blatherings without structure. There’s going to be a lot of reshaping, believe me, and the outlining is turning out to be very important for me, to the point where getting words out on the page is less important until the outline is done.

      It’s a silly thing, but I like to reread my own stuff if it’s good. I may rip apart one of my recent stories just to get a handle on where it went wrong, and maybe to rewrite it in front of an audience. Gulp.

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