I pitched the plot of my novel to my sister the other day, and the first thing she said was, “So it’s basically a story about your life, right?” I laughed off her innocent question, but I felt exposed somehow, fraudulent, like I’d been caught red handed in some evil act.
If I’m being honest, I knew the protagonist of my work-in-progress was based on my own personality, but I thought I’d disguised him well enough, given him his own voice, his own story, his own conflicts. Turns out, I haven’t been as clever as I thought.
I think the hardest part about writing is allowing my work to take me out onto thin ice, so to speak. Those moments when I realize my characters are revealing in me something I’ve tried to bury, are terrifying, and what I find as I continue to write is that these occurrences seem to be transpiring more and more frequently. And it’s extremely uncomfortable.
I’ve decided to write a novel—this novel—for my coursework in the MFA program I just started in January. I knew when I took on the task that I was biting off more than I might be able to chew. For the program, most students focus on writing a collection of short stories, which usually top out at around 150 pages. The average novel is closer to 300. So already I have a lot to deal with. But now I realize (admittedly I should have been aware of this from the very beginning) that my work is going to be painfully personal. And it’s too late to back out now—though I’m not sure I could if I wanted to.
I don’t know why people pay for therapy. Writing is much, much cheaper.
Photo courtesy of morberg.