I’ve been writing for a long time–years and years, actually. During all of that, I’ve looked at writing as an escape from my real life. Writing was a place in which no boss could deny my vacation days, no customer could become angry with me, no loved one was unhappy with something that I had done or said, and no parent could display contempt for me.
I’d work from project to project and hang onto the belief that I had written something perfect or perfectible, so I could stop thinking about it, and whistle through my day, transcending the petit suffering of my middle class white life.
And at the end of each project, I would send its imperfect slouching self out onto the sea of the larger world where it sank without a trace.
I would always get what I secretly wanted–to remain in my perfect fantasy of escape from life. If I ever got what I imagined, I’d lose the fantasy and become stuck in the existential “now what?” of the real world.
Only recently, I’ve come to a very different way of looking at things. Writing is about being more engaged in the real world. When I struggle with theme, character, and plot, I struggle with my own life. I try to see if my struggle reflects the struggle of others. Could anything I write be of use to anybody else?
Today we are surrounded by fear. Tyrants threaten to save us through brutal hatred. Powerlessness, hopelessness, and the death of innocence is the order of the day.
The writing now haunts every day of my waking life. It is in the background of everything I do. And the struggle is always about making it work better, speak louder, and be more true and relevant for other people.
I might succeed at speaking this truth, or I might not, but at long last, I am engaged in the attempt to write something real.