It’s been a really long time since I’ve committed to a fiction piece longer than ten pages. I always have grand ideas for beginnings, even some endings… it’s just the “getting there” and “middle parts” that stump me. My advanced fiction class has pushed me to break through that glass ceiling, because I’m working towards a 10 to 20 page story for the end of the semester. So I’ve just written. Whatever’s come to mind, I’ve put it down in hopes that it would culminate into something I can work with and be proud of.
This week in workshop, I was asked by a group member why she should care about my character.
In many workshop settings, I have a tendency to be a bit of a peach– I can bruise easily. So yes, it stung a little bit to realize that no one else wanted to invest in a story I’d worked on diligently for the past couple of weeks, but I was feeling the exact same thing. My problem hasn’t been the ideas or the characters, it’s been connecting with my characters deeply enough to make someone else want to connect with them. I haven’t finished any other projects because I’ve been getting bored with the stories I’ve been telling. I’ve let the pain and fear of my past prevent me from investing fully in the stories I want to tell, so I haven’t connected with them to bring them to a finishing point.
There have been many experiences in my life that have made me afraid to become vulnerable and trust myself and my writing to tell a story worth telling… but everyone has those experiences. Everyone has trusted when it might have been less painful to be apprehensive, and everyone has put themselves out there and gotten hurt. My experiences have led me to sometimes fall into a habit of “playing it safe” or avoiding taking risks for fear of being shot down, but that’s no way to grow or to really share the pieces of myself that are the most engaging. Many of my most meaningful stories have come from hardships and the strength I’ve gained because of them.
In addition to my advanced fiction writing class, I’m taking an introductory creative non-fiction class. It’s teaching me to write about myself and to delve into some of those experiences that I’ve hidden away… it’s challenged me to get personal and write the risky essay about a terrifying 16-year-old experience instead of writing something safer for fear of putting myself “too” out there. Writing is being okay with focusing on yourself and trusting what you bring to the table– I often shy away from being the center of attention because I fear I’m too “vanilla” or “boring,” but that’s no way for a writer (or anyone) to think. Every person brings something distinctly herself to the table, and I’ve allowed past insecurities cloud my sight of that in myself. Writing is vulnerability, and it’s in that vulnerability that we find the stories worth sharing and worth reading. Yes, workshops can be scary and can bruise your peach-like heart… but they challenge you. They ask the questions you might be too afraid to ask yourself, and they make you better. They show you the way to get to the story you want to tell, and as much as it can be sticky and weird and uncomfortable, I’m learning to be okay with being ripped to shreds to put the pieces together just right.