Saturday, May 8, 2010

Why I Write Fiction and Not Autobiography

In 2005 - when I was first putting up a website, still deployed in Afghanistan - I thought I knew what direction my writing would take in the years ahead.  In my article "Because the Truth Hurts: Why I Write Fiction Instead of Autobiography," I tried to lay out the reasons why fiction, for me, was so much safer than works more personal.

It's about the compartments in our lives, the areas we keep hidden from the prying eyes of the world.  It's still a good article, but I've changed a lot as a writer since then.  For me, now, I see memoir and autobiography as ways to share life and, in a way, to heal.  Safety is important, yes, but there is still the danger of burning from within.  Shame, anger, sadness - these emotions not only drain us as people, but as writers.  They can drive us to write, but they don't always drive us to write well.

Since writing the original article, my goal has changed.  Now I focus more on trying to express what I feel and why.  I still write mostly fiction, but I try to bring it a bit closer to home.  In a way, I'd like to think I can excise the demons in my soul by putting down some justice in the words.

Does it work?  I don't know.  I don't know that anyone knows.  Writing helps me feel better sometimes, but sometimes it brings up emotions that I'm not ready to deal with.  So it's a fine line, this tightrope - expressing enough to relieve the pressure on the soul, but not so much that the pain bursts to the surface like methane about to blow.

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