No. I was told that authors write stories they want to read, things that they fill aren’t out there, that they think the world would benefit from having. I don’t write like that at all. Oh, I believe the world would benefit from some of the things I write, some of the things I have to say, but I don’t write just because I want to read things like what I write. I already know those stories, those experiences. I write to learn things, mostly about me, that I never knew I had in me, to pull them out and examine them in a safe place. Because when I’m writing about how Mary Cartwright feels (a real character’s name, so don’t go stealing it! LOL), it hasn’t nothing (and everything) to do with me.
I write about a lot of things I haven’t experienced, that look nothing like my life, and yet I still see pieces of myself sticking out. Take this Mary Cartwright person. She’s a Black female writer (are we surprised) who is contacted to ghostwrite a memoir for a racist white woman (haven’t gotten that call) in her hometown. She is Southern, ashamed of her country family, makes an effort to speak proper English (and is the only character that is Black so far that doesn’t speak in the local dialect). She avoids her mother like the plague, and has been largely successful in forgetting everything about the place that made her who she is. I am, by my own admission, a little bit country. I grew up in Michigan, but my mother and her family are from Arkansas. My insulated upbringing, amongst her family, which took up two other houses on our street and were spread elsewhere throughout the city, was old fashioned. I have a slight Southern accent. I know how to cook, clean and keep house. When I cook for my boyfriend, I serve him first. I go to church. I’ve been Southern in everything but geography and shaving my legs consistently since I was knee high to a grasshopper. I’m old fashioned and I don’t run from it. But sometimes, my country, backwards family (Florida and Arkansas relatives) embarrass and shame me. I could gladly forget the suburb of Detroit I grew up in. But I love my mother and talk to her all the time.
I have other characters that are more different than–sex addicts, promiscuous sculptors, victims of rape, married women who are bored–but who share some of my characteristics, past and present–low self-esteem, father issues that hold them back, always slipping into a fantasy in which they are powerful and say exactly what they felt they should have said when the event really happened.
I didn’t realize I was embedding these small pieces of myself into my characters, but it makes sense. I don’t want people to think when they read the things I write I am talking about me, per se, but I am not writing about wounded people to make a spectacle of them, or because I think we don’t pay enough attention to them. I want them to win, to get over it as best they can, to show people (me) the way out of the forest and back home, because the birds ate the bread they (I) dropped.
When I wrote about wanting to keep my cousins, friends young, of never wanting them to grow up into what they are now, I wrote it because I felt helpless, like it’s too late to save those little scraps of the people I loved so much, dead or alive.
I’m working on my next blog entry “Hardening His Heart? An Exodus Meditation.” When I write blogs like this, it’s also to show people a way out. I want to give them my perspective, my experiences, the knowledge God has given me, in a more direct way. You are not discovering it in a fake character’s actions, you are hearing it from me, which is why writing blogs is harder. You aren’t rejecting/criticising a story, you are rejecting/criticising me, my experiences, my truths, but God still calls me to speak it, my conscience still demands I don’t sugarcoat or hold anything back, and my heart gets a lift when someone comments that they know what I mean, that they feel that, that it opened their eyes to a new perspective, that they went and read the Bible for themselves to see if they could see that, that they did, indeed meditate on that, that this entry made them laugh–all of it. Even the criticism and disagreement at least let’s me know I’m not screaming in the darkness. So I appreciate the feedback, and I hope I am writing something you want to read.