Sunday, June 11, 2017

A Writer's Greatest Fear

As writers our greatest fear is not that we can't write. It's that we don't have anything to write about because we're not deep.

Anyone can learn mechanics. You can get a couple of grammar/construction books from the library, or hell, use Google to learn how to figure out how to write a correct sentence. But since you're a writer you're also a reader so you'll be inhaling any good writing you can get your hands on anyway. You'll learn by osmosis.

Anyone can put the effort in.

But then there's that moment. When you enter a contest, or write for a class or a club, or anything really, when you've put so much effort into your story, and worked on it night after night, and rewritten it five times, and finally you sort of like it.

Then someone else gets up and says, "I didn't really know what to write about, so I just decided to write about something that had happened to me. I was 13 the first time I was raped. Within a year, I was living on the streets..."

And suddenly it doesn't matter what you wrote because you will never in your life write anything as important as what that other person wrote. Because you're boring as fuck.

You're boring because your parents never hit you. Because they're still together. Because they gave you an education. Because you're healthy. Because your partners never abused you.

Wherever you go, people smell the stench of old money. And they judge you.

Moreover, you're white, so that's that.

And here you start feeling haunted by the specter of the "P" word. Not pretentious, although that's another good one. "Privilege."

Mostly we talk about checking your privilege. But I've checked it. I guarantee you. I've taken it out, turned it over, and acknowledged, "Yep, I'm Mommy and Daddy's little princess who gets what she wants." I didn't ask for it. It just kind of showed up.

Being privileged means you're simultaneously enviable and boring. Maybe the second takes the sting out of the first for other people. I don't know. It's like being back in church when it's "share your testimony time" and everyone's on the edge of their seat waiting to hear from the gay hooker drug addict who found Jesus and is now a youth pastor. Because that's where the juicy stuff is.

But I don't know if that's the way anyone really approaches life, or writing for that matter. Your ordinary boring life might seem exciting for someone else. I'll mention in passing that I lived in Japan for three years and people who I consider much more interesting will say, "That's amazing! I haven't done anything as cool as that?" And I'm like, "Are you kidding? You're way more interesting than I am!"

The people who are really worth talking to and paying heed to don't see the world as a stage where everyone is competing for the spotlight and let the best dramz win. Authentic people will accept you the way you are and won't typecast you.

Also, it's an incredibly modern way to think of writing to say that all writing is a reflection of your actual life and you have to experience everything in life to be able to write about it. Why are people still making movies about how Shakespeare wasn't really Shakespeare? Like he had so be some tragic noble figure who had some great love story behind the scenes. When all the data we have points to Shakespeare being a pretty normal, middle-of-the-road dude.

So no matter who you are, if you want to write, just write. Whatever you're interested in, even if it seems weird.

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