A Short Reflection on Writing a Novel

The weird part of fiction is how honestly you write about yourself. It’s scattered, but all too clear, the aspects of my life I’d like to keep hidden. They’re rewritten as characters too hyperbolic to have actually existed. They’re scenes too weird to be true. You take a true moment in time and you stretch it you slice it and mold it to form something unrecognizable to the defining moment.

When I show the work to people I feel a little bit naked. It’s not just the form they’re critiquing, but intentionally commenting on very personal issues to me. Real moments in my life, dressed up in clown costumes, directed to entertain. Parts of myself none the less. In these moments when my friends are giving genuine criticism, I’m tempted to be defensive.

They’re correct in what they say. It’s a bit hard to separate the emotional content from the text you’ve written. As a younger man I’d take it a lot harder, having my identity wrapped up too much in my ability as a writer. This caused problems considering I demanded perfection in myself and the first draft is always far from perfect. The result being not a lot of writing would get done. As well as my insecurity couldn’t handle too much scrutiny to my writing. So it wouldn’t improve.

This changed in placing my identity not in my ability to write, however good or bad it was, but in the person of Jesus Christ. I became a Christian as a teenager, a very angst teenager. And when I stopped thinking of myself in terms of my own performance, but in what Christ has done for me, It alleviated the impossible standard I set for myself and allowed me to write with the ability to critique myself and improve. I wasn’t fretting over people ‘not getting it’, placing blame on them rather than considering what may be wrong with the project. I had the freedom to be wrong and the ability to take that without a major emotional meltdown.

Writing a novel in the place I’m in now is challenging because I’m revisiting the place I used to be in and it’s exhausting at times. Placing myself in my former mindset and writing a character like that is emotionally draining. I don’t really like that guy. At that time I really didn’t like myself. I’m not only revisiting the person I was, but all the events surrounding me. Such as the death of my mother at the age of nine, my relationship to my bi-polar father, my step mother who could see ghosts, crippling depression, long days starring off into space, horrifically vivid nightmares, loneliness, generally confused about what direction to go in life, being kicked out of our house in Indiana and our family living with our grandmother in Ohio. The list can go on and on.

Though it’s extremely unpleasant. I’ve learned about myself in the process. And that it’s an important story to tell. If G-d has taught me anything it’s the lessons you’ve learned aren’t just for you, but for someone down the road. It’ll be worth writing knowing at least one person has considered what I have written. If not there’s always the next novel.


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