It always seemed strange to me – awfully strange – how different a writer’s life can be from his normal self.
How deep and meticulous his words, like staggering knives cutting through paper, as opposed to his soft talk when confronting the general public.
Perhaps all writers suffer from stage fright – or most of them at least. What other explanation is there then to the sudden rigidness they face when they start up a conversation?
Writers aren’t good with people. They are barely good with themselves. They are tasked to put up with their own ego and thoughts just to get it all down on paper. When they do, they become hollow – empty vases waiting to be filled again.
Their intricacies lie in their observation – in the analysis of themselves and others.
They are sponges that seek to absorb thoughts and behaviors and recreate them in their own world.
Whenever I’m alone with the page I never feel like running out of words. They start coming to me like an impending nausea that you can’t hold in. You just feel it and know it’s going to come out at some point. But whenever I run down to the local coffee shop or the bar at the corner I find myself at a loss. I seem to have been ripped out of my page, my room, my world and thrown out into a strange place where human interaction needs to be redefined. I bump into a strange girl and don’t hold the door for her or excuse myself. A stranger comes up to me to engage in conversation and all I can say is: ‘How are you?’ and ‘Crazy weather we’re having, eh?’
Well, the weather’s always going to be crazy and the answer is always going to be a simple ‘fine, and you?’ but somewhere along the line we’d have lost the whole point of the conversation.
What I really feel like saying is something like: ‘Tell me your deepest fear’ or ‘talk to me about the last poem you read’ or ‘what do you think about Mozart’s fifth symphony?’
These are the engaging conversations that make me feel like I haven’t left the page. Like I haven’t missed a beat from the world. Like it’s all out there – same as in my head and in the words I write. Unchanged. People get so caught up and high on fiction they forget it’s just a glimpse of reality – it’s inspired by reality and its content is very, very real. It’s just not the reality they live in and that’s got something to do with the way they’re living it.
Back in the room, writing on the page, diving into the minds of characters and heroes who speak immortal lines and take legendary stances, I could take any one of them on any given day and at any given time and make him eternal. They are emotional, interesting beings that seem too interesting to be part of this world. They are broken, they seldom evolve, they are at fault just like us. But there is beauty in their vulnerability. There is grace in the mistakes and screw-ups they take part in. They don’t freeze or shy away from talking to that beautiful girl they see. They aren’t afraid to dream big and own up to those dreams. They never settle for a conversation that begins with ‘How are you?’ and ends with ‘Fine, and you?’
They are heroes whose destinies are unwritten and moving with every line. They grow with the pages while we decay in our minds and turn on ourselves and others. We get sucked in by our inner passions and turn them into demons that break us apart and tear us into shreds. We are unable to extend a hand to others and are unwilling to dive into their own pit of darkness to try to save them from drowning.
Walking randomly into that coffee shop or bar around the corner shouldn’t be about getting the coffee or beer; it shouldn’t be about bumping into a random stranger and politely asking him or her how they are. It should be about finding others. Throwing them a rope. Saving them.
When we reach that level of consciousness and venture into the unknown that is another human being – when we truly invest in them just like we invest in our words and heroes – then we can truly start living our own lives.
And suddenly, fiction no longer seems close to the unreal and starts to look more and more like a memoir of our personal journeys.