When I started this year, one of my goals was to write a novel before the year ends. Not publish one, not get the eventual recognition such a novel deserves(I hope, I hope, and I dream) but simply put it to paper or PDF. Despite wanting to be a professional writer, I have always imagined I would attempt long fiction much later in my life. Well, except in my teens when I had a goal to write a 150-page novel before I turn 18. It’s alright to be that confidently ambitious when you are that young. Especially when you live in the suburbs, where having little opportunity means you dream up a million for your future. I also expected to act professionally, be in a band and go to space. And look how those dreams crumbled. Well, going to space is still a possibility. Don’t you dare try to crush that one.
But, as I was half way through my quarter-life crisis when I started this year, I thought, I’m too old and tired to be that naturally ambitious and optimistic. For someone whose normal state of being is moderate misery, I am highly optimistic. Which means I can never give up on anything, dreams or realities. I’m the kind of person who’d still sign up for a class in interpretive dance at age 90. And complain about how I suck at it when I go home.
So, coming back to this novel I have seriously decided to write, I’ve been spending the last 8 months thinking how to go about it. I’ve had ideas, but except for one or two, they are all quite far and away from who I am. And that would be alright if I expected to write Fantasy fiction, but that is something I don’t know much about. I like Humour, I like Romance, and for those to work in writing, there has to be some sort of grounding in reality. Or, maybe not? I, honestly, don’t know.
This “write what you know” adage that seems to pervade on all reflections on writing, fairly intimidates me. I cannot write what I know, for I don’t know much. I ferociously consume art because my own life is so, so, so hopelessly boring. And I like it that way. Sometimes when it isn’t boring, when experiential things seep in, I am a complete wreck. Now, if I were to document these, even in the garb of fiction, for the sake of alleviating pain and artistic integrity, it will be the last you hear of me. If I ever write confessionally, I better make enough money to escape into an uninhabited island and build myself a house with modern comforts.
Confessional writing, even when done tastefully, slightly embarrasses me. I just cannot imagine how people live with themselves after doing it. I am not criticizing them for doing so, I am simply amazed at their superhuman strength. However, though confessional writing should essentially be a “confession,” a revelation of the innermost workings of the soul(and perhaps the events that caused them), what it often becomes is a tell-all, an opportunity to spite those who have been the cause of hurt. But, after all, it is true that the easiest way of making a connection with your audience is to speak in the “I” and talk about the “I”. No wonder that Life blogs and Vlogging are so popular. Also, for most people, it is quite easy to talk about themselves.
I am no saint, either. I do talk about myself, but there are various levels of censoring to it. In my blogging(and other such semi-casual writing ventures), I try to maintain personality and though I may share anecdotes, I never confess. Well, I have done it once, but it isn’t “juicy”.
What I most like about writing is the wonderful opportunity of forgetting myself. Writing is one of those miracles, one of those other worlds I can create where it doesn’t have to be about the one I am living. Writing is the kind of spontaneous conversation I wish I had in real life. Can I give up this joy to “write what I know”?
Even if confessional writing can be just a distillation of your experiences, I cannot forget the people in my life, the immediate members of the intended readership out there who might form a few conclusions about me. My propensity towards embarrassment is like a disease I carry around, with no cure in sight. I cannot imagine what people who don’t know me will think. But, I can imagine the faces of those who will. There is a comfort to strangers. Each one is an opportunity to redeem yourself. To hide your warts, to showcase what’s best. To be nice, charming, intelligent, even beautiful.
I think I slightly understand why people write confessionally. It is an empowerment, a medium to right the wrongs created in the microcosm of the writer’s experience by reflecting it to the macro. It is a seeking of the comfort that those (hopefully) millions of strangers will give, by empathizing with you. But, that still isn’t tempting enough for me to risk it.
What are your writing fears?