Friday, November 1, 2013

Getting Naked

It has been said, and I wish I could remember who said it, that writing is going into a room, getting yourself as naked as possible, and then walking out into the world and saying, "So, what do you think?"

I know it was Neil Gaiman that said in his address to the University of Arts class of 2012 that, "The moment that you feel that, just possibly, you're walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself. That's the moment you may be starting to get it right."

I never really thought too much about it when I wrote Just J. It was after my dad died. I worked through my grief as J was working through hers. I always thought how much worse it was for her since she was younger and at an age when she really needed her mom. Though, to a certain extent, I think we always feel we need our parents and we become children again when they die as we long to be with them again, held by them again, guided through life hand in hand, while, at the same time, having to assume new responsibilities and no longer being able to turn to them for advice. 

With Chill, when I was asked to write it, it was for a very specific audience of reluctant reader teens. I used to be one. So, I asked myself, if I could go back and talk to me, what would I tell me? The answer was to believe in yourself, and don't let others, specifically bullies, discourage you from doing what you love. In the book the bully happens to be a teacher. The return to high school, and all its horrors, was much more intense than I thought it would be.  

My characters are often based on people I know or that I've read about. A little bit from one a little bit from another possibly little bit of me. We share in an emotional experience. Sometimes they share in mine, sometimes me in theirs. Sometimes it's something from my life, sometimes from something I've read or listened to. It's done with empathy and imagination, the same as reading. 

When I was at a Canadian Writers' Union meeting one of the writers said how in order to write fiction you need to feel safe, you can't enter another world until you feel safe in your own. And you certainly can't get naked and go for a stroll if you don't feel safe. Sometimes you are in a situation that makes feeling safe difficult. Sometimes it's a situation you feel trapped in. That's where faith comes in. Even if it's an illusion, you can accomplish much more under the illusion of protection and purpose than under the reality of fragility and fear. Who's to say which is the true reality when our perspective is so limited. Most of the world we live in is imagination made real. Someone had to dream a house before someone else could build it. Its up to us to live in the dream until we have the strength to make it real, or prove it always was. Whether that be a house, a Higgs particle or a dream of becoming a writer. Without faith, progress becomes impossible. We need to trust before we can willingly shed our clothes, bare our souls and ask,  "What do you think?"

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