We all have our reasons for writing. I’ve long told people that I write because I have stories to tell. But writing is also a refuge from my frequently frantic existence.
I’m googling Tennessee Williams, having been intrigued by posts on Facebook promoting Follies of God, by James Grissom, a series of interviews with Williams and people he worked closely with. Tennessee has said:
“Why did I write? Because I found life unsatisfactory.”
“I’m only really alive when I’m writing.”
“. . . living at a tilt against reality, because reality is simply too much to handle.”
Here’s the quote that first caught my eye:
“I once dreamed of escaping to magical places: Movie sets; fairy kingdoms; lovely homes with lovely people. I wanted to escape the abuses, the taunts, the grinding, onrushing tide of meanness that rolled over me all through my early years. I never got to the magic castle I insisted was deep in the woods, but I escaped through words, through images on a screen. Every day–and you need to remember this–you can sit before the pale judgment and strike words on its surface and escape and rise and find the magical places you wanted. The magical places that are within all of us broken, desperate people.”
Williams was born into a turbulent household. His father, a drinking, gambling father with little patience for his sensitive son, traumatized him and his sister Rose. He found his safe haven in writing. Poor Rose was given a prefrontal lobotomy in an effort to alleviate her increasing psychological problems.
His writing was a therapy for him. He wrestled with his demons in work full of grotesques, but also full of humor and compassion for the weirdos, the brokenhearted, the misfits, the losers, for those of us who can’t always cope.
My writing is also a therapy. Every one of my characters has a large portion of me in their makeup. I’ve slammed my upbringing through them, I’ve commented on my ongoing relationships, and I’ve softened my judgements of my own less than delightful traits by explaining them to myself through the lens of my weirdos, in whom I don’t fail to find redeeming qualities, though I admit many of them are creeps and scoundrels. Adorable creeps and scoundrels.
I’ve been telling people I write Magical Realism. But I honestly don’t know what to call it.
Magical Realism is a narrative strategy that is characterized by the matter-of-fact inclusion of fantastic or mythical elements into a seemingly realistic world.
Matthew Strecher (Who dat? I googled him: Professor of Modern Japanese Literature and Chair of the Department of Liberal Arts at Sophia University in Tokyo) defines it as “what happens when a highly detailed, realistic setting is invaded by something too strange to believe, that is not explained, but treated as a normal occurrence.”
I have been under the impression it includes some kind of social or political relevance. Maisie is pure escapism.
In the end, what does it matter? That I am able to pigeonhole Maisie, position her in the literary landscape, that is. I’ve pretty much given up on trying to sell her to an agent or a publisher, the folks who insist on slapping a label on everything.
Tell people you’re writing about a talking mouse, they think Disney. Tell them it’s fantasy, they think wizards and dragons. Tell them it’s magical realism, they probably think Harry Potter, at this point.
Will anyone be debating whether Maisie is Magical Realism? I don’t think so. I hope folks are going to consider it absurd fun, featuring a character they care about.
I care about her. I live in her world. It’s a lovely world. I don’t want to live anywhere else. The real world is full of disappointment. Maisie never lets me down.
I write because it’s the best game in the world. I write because it’s a space I feel at home in. I write because I love the craft of writing.
Like–probably–most of you, I can’t get my family to read my work. I send them a chapter, hear nothing back, and think: I’m doing what you couldn’t do in a million years, you creeps. And you’re not smart enough to realize how good it is.
Does being dismissed deflate me? Not a bit. It strengthens my resolve. I’ve tried my hand at many a creative endeavor. I feel writing is the one area in which I’ve done outstanding work. It has improved my self-esteem tremendously.
I’m a pantzer. I start my tales without knowing where they will go. I create my characters, fall in love with them, and write to work out their destinies for my own pleasure, and to satisfy my own curiosity.
I don’t write because I hope I’m going to make money out of it. I write for the joy of it.
How about you?