The Distance From Fiction to Reality

Writing

Novel writing is a bit touchy in our house. My husband supports my writing, but fiction makes him a little nervous….and with good reason.

When I was a kid, I didn’t play. I built houses and castles out of brix blox, and I read, drew and wrote stories. At night, instead of going to sleep, I would lie in bed and “pretend.” On the playground I preferred to withdraw from the other kids and spend the time in my head, imagining stories.

I grew out of it enough to make some friends in high school, to enjoy the usual teen stuff. But in a lot of ways, I continued to live in my head, imagining myself as my main characters. I wrote love stories, and as my understanding of life grew, so did the complexity of the inner life. And then, my expectations of real life began to mirror what I had created in the inner. As you might imagine, real life never measured up.

Still, it’s one thing to live a fantasy life when you’re single. Getting married raises the stakes. When I really started writing in earnest, I got into trouble. Mundane reality began to grate on me. I loved my husband, but compared to the richness of the world in my head, our life seemed dull and prosaic. I didn’t want to quit writing at night; I resented being forced to exit my dream world to spend time with my husband. I spent all my free time living in my head, imagining the novel in more and more detail, creating characters, linking their back stories. If you’ve never experienced the buzz of creating a world and having it take shape under your fingers, it’s hard to communicate the thrill. Perhaps some of my fellow writer/readers can help there. It’s exhilarating, fulfilling…but if you let it overrun reality, it’s the worst kind of self-indulgence.

Fortunately, I recognized the trouble before it did too much damage…in part because Christian didn’t mince words in pointing it out. I had to make a painful sacrifice and stop writing fiction altogether for a while. It was the only way to break the thrall. And when I began again, I placed limits on myself—limits often stretched, but which nonetheless did their job.

The good thing about writing in a house full of kids is that they don’t allow self-indulgence. Children are a limit less elastic than any I could self-impose. These days, my problem runs the other direction: how to get enough concentrated time to get the momentum going in the first place. But recognizing the richness of my life, the heart-stopping beauty in it…I’ll take that option any day.