My son is a storyteller by nature. Primarily, he likes to tell stories about his five different lives. His current life is his favorite, but all sorts of fascinating things happened to him in his previous lives. In one life, he was even abducted by aliens!
The aliens were good to him; they fed him and cared for him. Although initially there was a language barrier, they taught him alien language bit by bit. In fact, they taught him all but one word. When you ask him about that one word, he’ll stare at you with his big hazel eyes and shrug. “I don’t know. They wouldn’t tell me.”
Apparently, that one word was so huge that if he had learned it, he would have learned all their secrets.
Besides my kid being a genius (duh), he’s really onto something. We all keep secrets. Embedded in our conversations, there are the omissions, the things we’re uncomfortable talking about. Discretion is a big part of our language.
And that’s where the writing comes in. I do NOT consider myself a writer, but I do write. And as I write, I inevitably feel a little more vulnerable for doing so. Sometimes this feels about as comfortable as standing outside naked during a hailstorm. Writing makes us vulnerable in a new way. The age-old adage sounds so simple. Write what you know. However, sometimes that’s about as appealing as a root canal. Actually, that’s a lie. Sometimes the root canal is far more appealing.
It’s not unusual to hear people talk about writing their autobiographies. For me, I have zero desire to write one. I like telling stories, but I don’t want to write a book about my life. There are numerous reasons, but the primary reasons are simple. For the most part, my life is pretty boring. And I’m actually not complaining about that part; my goal is actually to have a boring life. Ordinary things can be fabulous. Popcorn, napping, stories about aliens, and my husband making a pot of coffee in the morning really do make me happy.
However, ordinary things don’t always make for great writing. The things about my life that are interesting aren’t necessarily the most pleasant or palatable. More often, I find myself attempting to make my own humiliation (and/or frustration) funny or taking my own personal misery and trying to make it resonate. Since reliving your own misery is shockingly un-fun, I’ve found myself drifting more and more towards comedy. This mystified me initially, “Huh, I write humor now?” but it’s a lot more fun to write. Even when no one else laughs, I still do.
In contrast, this is what my brain looks like when I’m trying to write more serious pieces.
For me, the bottom line about writing is this: writing can be incredibly tedious. I’m beginning to understand why so many writers are considered “crazy”, why so many writers struggle with melancholia, depression, and mental illness. Perhaps it’s not what we think. Perhaps none of them started off crazy. Perhaps they were perfectly normal, and it was the writing that drove them to madness.
I’m curious about how other people feel about comedy versus more straight-laced autobiographical writing. Am I just at a roadblock that I need to push past? Does everyone experience this when delving into the past?
Oh, and if you’re curious about what inspired me to write this post, check out Black Box Warnings. In the next few days, there will be a guest post written by yours truly. Or not. I’m pretty sure backing out is still an option.