It Gets Personal

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

I'm stuck on a story. I've been writing this story for weeks, possibly even years. The idea came to me before I went to grad school and I wrote drafts of it as writing exercises but then I put it away. The story is largely personal, dare I say, autobiographical. Frankly, I'm most comfortable with it tucked away in a drawer.

Within the last three months, I've been culling through those pieces and I've thought about polishing it up and structuring it into some kind of story. I've been adding bits to it here and there. It's been interesting. Truthfully, it's been a little like therapy. Which means I'm absolutely, positively 100% sure I shouldn't ever show it to anyone.

Hence, the stickiness.

My squeamishness makes no sense. Writers have been writing autobiographical novels for years. Pam Houston, one of my inspirations, has said that she pretty much writes everything from her life. The fiction that most often appeals to me is fiction that has a very personal core. Given all this, you'd think I'd be doing more personal writing.

I first came to writing through an online journal I kept in 1997. The content was what you would expect of just about any college junior/senior posting on Livejournal today. I deeply explored the subjects of what am I going to do with my life?, I hate my roommates, and if he says he likes me, why doesn't he call me back? Silly as these issues were, they meant a lot to me and ten years ago I had no problem opening a vein in front of Internet strangers. However, in the realm of fiction, only a couple of stories have come directly from my life. In those, I put enough "not me" details in there to make the character more of a character than a thinly-veiled version of me.

So today I find myself stuck trying to reconcile the personal side of this story with the fiction side of it. The difficulty lies in that I like it a bit raw, but I'm not sure I'm brave enough to submit it as it is. I could probably also change up the character a bit, give her more distance from myself, but doing so also seems like a cop out.

Part of me just wants to blaze ahead with this story in all of its personal glory. The other part just wants shove it in a drawer and go back to the characters I can keep at an arm's length.