Monday, September 15, 2008

River of Names

I've just finished some emotionally intense reading -- all the more emotionally intense because the story is like the author's reflection. Not quite her life, but then it is.

She's lesbian, poor Southern, sexually abused, so many things that I'm simply not. But I read her and I'm astonished and gut-wrenched and left emotionally gasping. And a part of me says, I want to write like her.

I asked my Creative Writing professor recently if it was possible to write too much from one source of inspiration, namely from one's own experiences. He said no, of course not, but I didn't believe him. But after reading Dorothy Allison's River of Names, it's easier to believe that who I am, who I really AM, without shame and without contempt, can make a compelling story.

Now, I do not come from the kind of families that Allison writes incest, no gory death, nothing like the twisted emotional framework on which her stories rest. My stories don't go to the depths of horror because I've separated myself so much from the terrible things in my life that I can't separate myself from the stories. I have no desire to relive those things, to imagine the things I can't remember, to fill in the details of what I know. I don't want to know just how much those things affected who I am. I just can't write that story, not yet. But maybe someday when, as Allison says, I have a "boring, uncomplicated life [and can] write emotionally intense complicated stories," it will come out.

But I need my life to be boring in that particular aspect, to have closure on my family, the violence, the emotional abuse, the mental illness, the neglect and abandonment and drug abuse, and let it all make sense instead of just being out of sight and out of mind. That's why so much of me hopes and promises to work for a much different kind of family -- so I can make up for the family that I don't have. I think it would make a wonderful Mormon story...I suspect that's the audience that would understand my horror best.

Someday I'll be able to take my own pain out of it, and let the reader decide for themselves how they're going to deal with it. I had to figure it out; why shouldn't they?

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