For me, the hardest part of being a writer is pouring emotion into the manuscript. I’m not a wallower by nature. But a writer has to empathize with her character, remember a time when she felt rage or infatuation or hope. Then she has to dissect that memory, tease out telling nuances.
But it makes for compelling story.
And oh, how I’ve cringed at critique group as my heart-gristle is laid bare for all to see. Did they think that I felt such feelings? That I entertained such thoughts? The mortification!
Over time I have toughened up. A novel is a work of fiction, after all, and I’m the only one who can tell where the fantasy begins and the reality ends. So when my critique mates say, “That’s powerful,” I take it as a compliment to my writing skills and leave it at that.
Or I used to. Because something happened at critique last week that made me rethink this whole “getting published” thing:
The girl next to me cried.
My first reaction was, “What’s the matter with NAME REDACTED?”
Second reaction was, “Is she crying because of what I wrote?”
Then I thought, “You don’t have to cry, NAME REDACTED, this isn’t real. I made it all up.” But that’s only partly true. The characters may be invented, as well as the thrilling plot they are involved in, but the emotions are all genuine. Culled from my own experience–painful to admit. I don’t care how a writer tries to play it off. Anything I write about, I have experienced in some form. Sure, I don’t have to be a murderer to write about one, but I have to have been angry some time in my life to be able to write about rage. And I have to be willing to unmask authentic emotion and invite the reader in to share it.
Becoming a writer has turned out to be a lot more than learning craft and making the right connections. It’s been the willingness to be bald-faced before the world.
I never knew how brave I’d have to be, to be a writer.