“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”
That quote by Flannery O’Connor has always been one of my favorites. I have a printout of it in my office. And underneath, I’ve added my own version:
“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I feel.”
It’s far easier for me to write what I think and feel than to say those things out loud. Maybe it’s the introvert in me who doesn’t like confrontations. Maybe it’s the writer in me who wants to edit everything to perfection. However, I’m not an equal opportunity writer. I don’t journal. I’ve tried. I can’t. My fingers freeze when I have to write about myself.
Fiction, on the other hand, is safe. Fiction is where I can release my thoughts, feelings, emotions without fear. My fictional characters can sort through emotional upheaval. They can confront the people who hurt them and they can change their lives in 300 pages. Those characters can do all the things I can’t always do. Through them, I can release the pressure building inside me. They don’t speak for me and they don’t deal with the issues I may be struggling with. But through their emotional journeys, I can release my own fears and heartaches and dreams. My stories are the family and friends I can’t always open up to. Through them, I can spread my wings. The stories don’t reflect who I am or what I do. But through them I can explore new ways of becoming whole again.
The Distance Home, releasing May 2, 2017 from Forge, delves into the heartbreak of failed relationships – both with family and friends. My history and experiences are very different from the main character’s. I wrote about her struggles and heartbreak. There were no parallels between what she was going through and where my life was at the time. But through her emotional journey to rediscover who she was, I found pieces of myself that I’d locked away over the years. I don’t start a story or scene with the idea of working out a problem I’m dealing with. I don’t think about what I would do in a situation my character is dealing with. She is not me. But through her strength, I find my answers. Through her feelings, I find my thoughts.
My fingers are my therapists. My characters are my confidants. I am a writer because I think through my fingers.