For my writing class I’ve been trying to push my way through a short story that I started almost three months ago, and my brain also refuses to move forward on a simple one-page novel synopsis. All summer I’ve been unreasonably unhappy and have whispered excuses to my subconscious: it’s not your fault, you’ve been working so much, this isn’t the right idea, it’s just a first draft, step away for a bit and come back with fresh eyes, and on, and on. Certainly those things are all true for writing, but there is some other block holding me back from all this: a surprising lack of interest in writing fiction.
After hearing several speakers this weekend at the Sun Valley Writer’s Conference, and getting to speak to one of my favorites–the wonderful Alexandra Fuller–I’ve decided that the problem lies in my attempt to write something that I don’t want to write. Every good idea that I think I’ve had has not been a story, and I’ve had no interest in creating characters who don’t exist. I’ve taken good ideas and strained my brain to imagine ways to turn them into fictions, and dreamed of relaying my great epiphanies to the world through short stories and novels. Perhaps I do have this talent somewhere in my being, but for now I’d really just like to focus on writing what is real.
The notepad in front of me holds a scribbled list of thoughts that could be made into a essay for a Lit class. If I want to write compassionately and with honesty (as Ms. Fuller instructed me to), these are the thoughts that I must explore, research, and form into something for myself. One thing I’ve learned in the past few months is that a writer can’t be good unless she is writing for herself–if the stories we tell and the characters we create don’t interest us, why should we assume that they would interest anyone else?