Non-fictional Fiction (Writing Stories About Girls Who Aren't Your Wife)

I have this ending that I wrote a good fifteen years ago.  The ending is so much better than the short story that it's attached to I almost believe that it was written by someone else.  And for years, I've been trying to figure out how to to rescue it.

It's a universal ending.  It's about a guy who realizes that the girl he's been sleeping with is more than that.  The writing is delicate and strikes just the right note of sentimentality.  I've gotten compliments on this ending, despite the festering wound that was the 20 odd pages that proceeded it.

Recently, I found myself writing a short story that was based upon the life I was living fifteen years ago.  And, not surprisingly, it matched up perfectly to the ending.  I just finished the first draft, or at least the first draft that I'm willing to pass along to my editor.

My editor is my wife, Nicole.  And that's where it gets weird for me.

Because I didn't know Nicole fifteen years ago, and this new story is ostensibly a love story about a girl who isn't my wife.  And it's written in the first person.  And a lot of what happens is lifted directly from my life.

I don't think I've given Nicole such a story in a long, long time.  I gave her "Unrequited" when we started dating and she liked it a lot.  I gave it to her friends and they all assumed she was who I based the main character on, even though I wrote it years before I met her.

I've written a few things here and there that featured women (seriously, I basically write love stories), but they were always stand ins for Nicole.  I mean, they were pretty obvious stand ins for Nicole.

Over the last few years, it hasn't even been an issue.  I wrote a non-fiction book that is just chock full of Nicole.  I wrote a YA book that is clearly not about me in any way, shape, or form.  So it's been some time since I gave Nicole a story to read that blurred that line between fiction and reality.

 Here's the thing: if you're going to write a love story in the first person, you need to believe that the narrator is in love, or at least has the potential for that.  And the narrator in this story is potentially in love with a woman who is not my wife.  Then again, this is a story that takes place before I met her.

Nicole has no problems with this. But I feel weird giving it to her.

This is the problem with my obsession with metafiction: no one else cares.  Nicole is going to read this as a story that takes place during a time before I met her, narrated by a guy who sounds an awful lot like me, but clearly isn't because, hey, look at that, I did not marry this fictional character.  And while I would be unable to separate my feelings while reviewing such a story, Nicole will do just fine.

For me, it's a big deal.  My life and my fictional life are so intertwined that it sometimes gets tricky, or at least feels messy.

But I suppose this is why I'm a writer and not married to one.

I'd get a lot more done if I didn't regularly think that none of it matters.

This should make my wife happy.

I drink when I write.

I don’t do it because I feel like I can only be creative if I’ve got alcohol in my system, although I will admit that it’s much easier to access that part of my brain with some liquid assistance.  I’ll also admit that it’s fun to read something I wrote the night before and be surprised at how good it is.  But, no, I don’t use alcohol as a form of inspiration.  I don’t need it to actually create.

I need alcohol to get past the feeling that none of it matters.

I should point out that this isn’t always the case, but it’s close.  My “writer’s block” isn’t that I don’t have anything to write about, it’s that I don’t think any of the things I’ve got in my head are worth the time and effort.  Is the world screaming for another YA book?  Is my life so interesting that it needs to be shared?  Why would anyone read a review of “Rise of the Midnight Sons?”  Who even reads my blog anymore?

I am so envious of people who can just sit down and write for pleasure that it sometimes make me want to kill them. 

Being content to write for pleasure is a foreign concept to me.  I like to think that, if I were paid to write, it would be easier.  That somehow financial compensation, which also suggests that people are actually reading my work, would motivate me, would convince me that what I’m doing is worthwhile.  And as much as it pains me to say it, I think that’s true.  I think even validation in the form of money would be enough.
But there are very few people who get to do that. 

So how do I explain those who write for fun?  Those who are content to sit at their computer, submerged in the reality of their work, unconcerned about whether or not anyone will actually read what they’re writing?  Who are these people who are happy enough to be able to do that?  Why doesn’t that seem like a waste of time to them?
I suppose the answer is in the question.  They’re “happy enough to be able to do that” because writing makes them happy.  So it’s not a waste of time. 

But that’s not who I am.  I love having written.  I love going to write.  I have a complex relationship with the actual writing.  I very often don’t see the point in it.  It takes everything I’ve got just to sit in front of my computer and even then whether I actually get any work done or not is a crap shoot.
Instead I could look at our finances.  That’s important.  I can check my work email – I get paid for that.  I can work on my to do list.  I can go on Twitter and Facebook and “talk” to people, which gives me immediate satisfaction.  Writing is hard and it takes forever and I’d like some happiness right now, please.
Or I can play with my son, assuming he’s awake.  I could spend some time with my wife since we never see each other anymore or, when we do, it’s while taking care of our son.  Maybe we could have actual conversations.  Maybe we could have a date.
I know that if I don’t write, I start to get even moodier than normal.  It’s often my wife’s go-to question when I’m in a funk or acting out (not unlike a child).  “Have you written lately?”  Because she knows that it’s an indirect form of therapy for me.  Even if I’m not writing about myself, the act of creating has a positive impact on me.  But that positive impact is often hard to see until I’ve actually done it.
There are so many other things that have a positive impact on me, though.  So many easier things.
So how do I do it?  How do they do it?  How do I just sit down and write, rest of the world be damned, need for validation be damned, need for immediate satisfaction be damned?  How do I convince myself that this short story, this novel, this column, this review, needs to exist?
Why does this matter?
Happiness isn’t reason enough for me to do much of anything, which is part of the problem.

Happiness is being with my wife and son, but that’s not the only thing going on when I’m with them.  I’m making both of them happy, too.  I’m helping to raise our son.  I’m doing something important, so I don’t question it.  The validation for my actions is right there in front of me.
And maybe that’s why writing doesn’t make me happy while I’m doing it, because doing something solely to make myself happy isn't something I understand.  I need a reason, and without one, I can’t accept doing it.  If I don’t have a reason other than just because “it makes me happy,” then it won’t make me happy.
So I guess that’s the question, then: how do I accept doing something just because it makes me happy?  How do I get past the need for it to be anything more and how do I get past that need being some kind of validation?  How do I just enjoy the experience for what it is on its own?
I have no idea.  Not a one.

It actually feels like the great hurdle of my existence, because I think it’s something that extends far beyond just writing.  Even if it doesn’t, the impact it would have on my work would be huge.

The impact it would have on my liver would be pretty big, too.