How many times have I started a story or a novel that sucked? The despair and depression began as soon as the original spark began to fizzle, the images began to fade, the ideas began to deflate. The narrative lacked some kind of spine or heart, some kind of engine that could carry it through to its resolution. I always thought there was something wrong with me when this happened.
As a writer I had a fight to fight. I wanted to fall in love with my characters and their pain, but words kept getting in the way. I kept pushing too hard, trying to find a point of view that wasn’t really mine.
When this stuff happens (and it happens frequently) I freak out and reach into my bucket o’ anti-depressants. Nothing to do but hit the DEL key and the trash becomes my best friend.
Imperfect memory. Mis-heard voices. Grabbing things as they fly past. I thrive on these. The truth is, I have no idea what I’m doing until I’ve spent days, weeks, months with visions and re-visions, and sometimes they just won’t gel.
But it’s all right. Blame it on the liquid of language we’re all dissolved in, as Modest Mouse says. “Everyone’s a building burning with no one to put the fire out.”
Freaking out and saying good-bye are part of the package. Life is nothing except a series of moments, and writing fiction is a subjective experience, created through our own viewpoint. Although great literature remains timeless and deeply satisfying because of its exquisite descriptions of the human condition, it’s not really a corroboration of direct personal experience. That’s because language is an imperfect transmitter and receptor. So, we have to come to terms with our own experience and trust it because no one else is having it, only us.
That means that in the end we are all our own writing teachers. Being our own writing teachers brings with it freedom, curiosity and wonder. The difficulties of process and any “objective” understanding we claim to have of the world is built entirely from scratch with each story.
What we build depends on the books we’ve read, the people we’ve met, and the experiences we’ve had. It means that although we share the same objective world, we will never represent it quite like anyone else. And this is why it’s self-destructive to think we have nothing “original” to say or to allow others to tell us how we should write. It also lets us disregard extraneous, non-useful criticism.
Subjectivity is primary experience — it is real life, our real life, something each of us builds on top of objectivity in our minds, privately, in order to make sense of it all, and even if no one else reads it, if no one else cares. Each raindrop matters, even if no one notices it fall. This truth could have important implications for us as we develop as writers. In the end we all have to be our own heroes.