“Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind, is written large in his works.”
I don’t know that I’ve ever read anything by Woolf, but she’s right.
I’ve been thinking lately about the recurring themes in my work, after I realized the other day that I enjoy writing characters who vomit as a response to stress – such things are very dramatic and appeal to the cinematographer in me, which I have mentioned before. A lot of the things that I write, and write, and write again are the things which no one wants to talk about. Stress, pain, negative emotion, loss. These are things which we all suffer through, and which we all bury.
I’ve always looked at writing as a method of psychoanalysis, usually that of the character in question. Why do these characters act as they act? Why do they think as they think? Why do they choose as they choose? When you put these things in the microcosm of fiction, it’s much safer than getting involved with them in reality.
But then I realized that as much psychoanalysis can be done on the writer as his cast. Why did the author choose these characters? In this place, in this time? What does he reveal about himself with his seemingly insignificant decisions? I used to fight this. The blue curtains are just blue curtains. The clock reading 12:02 only means that it’s afternoon. These things, in the whole of the narrative, seem less than noteworthy.
I think I came to this conclusion because I didn’t want to believe that I was revealing things about myself in my own work. I didn’t want to think that someone could pick up the newest piece I’d been working on and come to some conclusion about me without ever having spoken to me as a person. It was jarring. It was terrifying.
But it was also true. I can recognize that now.
I hate to think that someone can take as small an action as a character removing his coat as a metaphor for his becoming emotionally vulnerable, even though that’s exactly what it is. I shudder to imagine that someone could pick out my emotional state by my word choice.
Moreso than this, though, I think a reader could pick out exactly what I’m most terrified of and exactly what I want more than anything just by reading a few of my pieces.
Right now, I’m rewriting a story I’d originally written about eight or nine years ago, at the start of high school. I found myself thinking about it and, unable to find it despite numerous searches, I decided if I couldn’t find it, I’d recreate it. It’s about a girl and her partner (first boyfriend, later husband) as they grow up, more or less. It starts with the girl finding out she’s pregnant, having a myriad of emotions about it, and eventually coming to terms with motherhood. It ends with the girl, grown up, learning her daughter has been killed and dealing with both her grief and the subsequent strain on her marriage. In the original, she had an affair, and ended up with an illegitimate son out of it. I don’t know if I’ll write that in this time.
At a similar time, I did a project for my English class which required rewriting the end of Romeo and Juliet. In my version, Juliet woke up in time, had her tryst with Romeo, and became pregnant. However, Romeo was captured and sentenced to death, and Juliet committed suicide with her happy dagger soon after he was hanged.
I wrote not even half of a story with a friend of mine about an alcoholic art student who fell in love with a polisci major and basically tried to drink himself to death over it, despite the boy returning his feelings.
In my novel, which I haven’t touched for almost two months, my mains dance around admitting they actually have feelings for each other for various reasons – he thinks he’s not good enough for her, she doesn’t want to hurt him because of her life choices. I have it written in my outline that she eventually gets pregnant, even though I know she would not be the world’s greatest mother.
Art imitates life, to a degree.
To be clear, I’m not saying I’ve ever inadvertently gotten pregnant or tried to kill myself over a stupid boy. What I am saying is that it’s quite clear what I have significant amounts of anxiety about. And, obviously, I’ve had these anxieties for quite some time.
And I mean, that’s kind of sad, isn’t it? Twenty-two and I’ve resigned to dying alone. I did that a long time ago. I just decided the risk isn’t worth the reward.
Or, more accurately, I guess, that there isn’t actually a reward at all. Almost every single example of relationship in my life has either failed or been so extraordinarily lackluster as to cause hesitation.
I’ve become so accustomed to being alone, unconcerned for the particular feelings of anyone else, that I don’t think I could bring myself to care for another person that much, even if the opportunity did arise. Though, to be honest, I don’t think I would (could?) ever reduce myself to taking any advance of that nature seriously. I have an extreme tendency to shut down and run away from all actions that could even remotely be perceived as having romantic intent. The fact remains that I am more comfortable, and more truly myself, when I have no one to answer to and no one to concern myself with. I cannot say how badly I want to live alone, though at this juncture, that’s not exactly possible.
But still, the desire for some bodily solace remains.It would be nice, on occasion, not to endure the night alone. I have explained it in this way before, though I’m not sure it’s exactly clear, that the thing about being alone that gets to me is the lack of weight, by which I suppose I mean presence. It’s nice, sometimes, to just feel the solidity of another person. I am not exactly sure how else to put it.
On those days, I take a shower, wrap the blankets a little tighter, and pretend that I am whole enough by myself, pretend that even if I’m not, someone, somewhere, might be brave enough to fill the gaps.
But then, the world is full of pretty lies.
“Loneliness is a strange sort of thing. It creeps up on you, quiet and still, sits by your side in the dark, strokes your hair as you sleep.”
— Tahereh Mafi, Unravel Me