05 December 2010

Things you think about when you can't sleep

It's 4 am on a Sunday morning when I could be asleep, but since I am not... Funny how the brain works. I wake up a lot in the early morning hours, 3am, 4am; then I just lay there in bed thinking. I used to get up and write (poetry, stories, blog posts), but I haven't been writing much at all since early last summer. Not that I don't have anything to write about. In fact the opposite is more true. I have far too much to write about... so much in my head I just don't really know where to begin and (this may sound odd) on top of that I don't know anymore who I am writing for.

One of my fiction writer friends says she writes because she has to. If she didn't the words, the ideas, would just keep rolling around in her brain and drive her crazy. I can understand that. Sometimes I wish my brain had a switch--on, off, clear cache... reboot.

Somehow, though, for me writing has to have an audience. And therein lies the rub. If I write about most of the stuff in my head anywhere I send it, post it, or share it, it is bound to offend someone. The thing about stories is that they want to be told. They don't want to sit in notebooks or lie about in drawers. So I feel compelled to publish, to share. My biggest problem is I am not good at audience. Although half my audience is generally chuckling and enjoying the story immensely, the other half is invariably bored, or worse: pissed off.

One of the first poems I ever published was about my grandmothers, my mother, and my daughters. I was looking at how women carry on through generations. My mother's only comment was about the stanzas she was in, and what she said to me was: "That's a lie, it didn't happen that way."

What I had been telling was her story as I had heard it, from her, from my dad, from others. Filtered through my writer's sensibilities and my (imperfect? biased?) observations of her as her daughter. What she saw in herself was so different that she was angry at my less than flattering portrait. But the woman she saw herself as could be seen only through her filters. Two different stories. Both accurate if disparate views. My story was about an ordinary woman with with extraordinary desires leading an ordinary life. The problem is no one wants to be seen as ordinary. Not really. Certainly not my mother, who spent most of my childhood telling us how happy we were and how lucky we were to be us--this ideal suburban family. What I still see looking back is a husband who got drunk, ran around looking to other women for affection he didn't get at home, because he never made enough money to support five kids or to satisfy a woman who had her dreams of movie-stardom thwarted by the realities of motherhood and the embarrassment of dependence on her own mother for handouts and hand-me-downs. When I tell the story my way I upset my family. When I tell the story the wasy they want it to be seen, it's not as good a story.

In some ways there are beautiful stories in there, in my head. The problem is my characters don't ever look heroic when seen by those who inspired them. Especially when inspired by people I care about most.

Right now I have the urge to write about my daughters. But I know if I do I will anger at least one of them, confuse one of them, and amused the third. Do I dare that chance that they will or will not see my fiction for fiction?

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