The Selfish Writer
20th Jan 2010 in Personal
I am an inconsiderate writer. I never change names and I never disguise events. I never pretend that anything is fiction, because it rarely is. I write about my own hurts and the hurts I caused, on purpose and in revenge. I’d write about you, and I wouldn’t even ask you whether it was okay.
I would never purposefully hurt someone’s feelings in my daily life, but in writing everyone I’ve ever met is just fodder for stories. For reasons I can’t really justify, I think this is acceptable. If creative writing is a merging of experience and imagination, then what do writers really have except what happens to them? All I know to write about is my life, and if other people happen to be present for those experiences – or to cause them – then of course they have to be part of the story too. So I wrote about those people, and I never told them.
All of this was fine when I was single. Well, maybe it wasn’t fine for the people I fucked and fictionalised, but it was fine for me, and as they stamped on my poor little heart I didn’t really care what they thought. And then I met Susie.
The only person I spend more time with than Susie is myself. Susie and I wake up together every morning and we fall asleep together every night. We cook dinner together, then we eat dinner together, then we play Guitar Hero together. She’s a part of most of the things that happen to me, because in the time I’m not with her I’m usually making cappuccinos for minimum wage or drinking tea while staring at my flashing cursor. I write about my experiences, and she’s in every single one. But I can’t just fuck and fictionalise her, because she’ll know and because I’ll care.
So I censor. I twist things around and say I made them up. I mix events together, pretending that they never really happened. I change names and places and genders and ages and facial features. I lie.
It’s better this way; it must be. I’m happy and I write so much, and people seem to even like what I’m writing. I’d rather be content and inspired and in love and have to write around someone else’s feelings; if I didn’t have Susie, I’d be so miserable that I wouldn’t write anything anyway. I can’t be expected to live a lonely and tragic existence just so that I can talk shit about people in my fiction.
But as much as I believe this, I sometimes miss my selfishness. I miss writing revenge stories exposing the truths of barely-disguised ex-lovers. I miss feeling so bereft because some girl whose face I can’t even remember stopped calling that I wrote a story about hearts that could be rented and returned. I miss being so in lust with a lanky blond 20 year-old that I wrote a poem where I was the giantess and he was my genderqueer victim.
I miss it in the same way that you’d miss your shitty boring hometown or the ex-boyfriend who let you trample all over him; I miss it, but I don’t want it back.
strangely, i was thinking the very same thing just yesterday while my bus was stuck in traffic for one and a half hours. to me everyone i know is a kind of resource. a clue maybe, to the truth of the human condition, and my experiences with them a hint at the truth of the world. i semi-clone real people (though i do change names) and certainly i copy real events. and i answer questions people have posed me, or just put out there either in their actions, or, if they are writer’s themselves, in their work (i have had alice sebold in my sights these last two days).
similarly, i’ve found this conviction and these methods stalled of late, after the introduction of a certain person into my life. i have never felt so squeamish about encroaching on someone’s private karma. she is, in certain ways at least, off-limits. and that has never happened before. in all my previous relationships my partner has been fair game. but not her. never her.
i love this, especially the last two paragraphs. it’s something i’ve given a great deal of thought to, especially in the past. usually the characters and the events are in danger of being too obvious and recognisable only in my short stories (and especially the three short stories i am working on right now). i guess it’s easier for me to trivialize my own heartbreaks and fuck-ups when i don’t have to keep it up too long? who knows! anyway, thank you for writing this. <3
[…] lovely Kirsty Logan wrote a beautiful blog post about this very thing. In fact, her post was in the back of my mind […]