Writing – and especially being read is sometimes more intimate than sex.
There. I’ve said it. You can frown at it, wonder about it, even think: “What the hell are you writing, Zane?” or for maybe even: “How bad is your sex-life?!”, but for most writers this is true. I think. I haven’t actually asked most of them, but I’ve heard different writers say this over the last few years, and to me it has always been true, ever since I started writing fiction at 9 years old.
Writing is very intimate. It gives the reader a look into your head. It sneaks them past all your mental defenses, your social filter, your carefully constructed persona. It is a backdoor into you psyche.
First there’s the almost free association on paper/screen. I sit down, think about a theme, then just start writing every word that pops into my head. Sometimes it’s just a brainstorm flower, sometimes it’s a story with, you know, sentences and paragraphs that more or less make sense.
Association. Jot down whatever lurks in your brain. Especially during the NaNoWriMo, when you (try to) turn off you inner editor, the wildest things can come up. Strange words, transformations of words, or maybe the weirdest scenes. In the Nexus books this happens often to me, probably because the Nexus as a world is already so very fluid and our reality doesn’t hold any sway there. So it very easy for me to run off a cliff there with the most bizarre vistas.
Then there is the reader actively analyzing whatever I’ve written. It’s not too bad if you have only one book out there. It’s still like having photos of your naked body roaming free on the internet, but hey, it’s just one or two photos and it’s quite functional naked, nothing sordid.
But as soon as there are more books, the more discerning of readers start to analyze them.
“Woah, why always books where the protagonist doesn’t have a father?”
“What’s with the horses anyway?”
“Does he really have to bring up betrayal as a theme again?”
Suddenly, there’s a pattern.
Yes, I do this with all the books I read and that means I often raise an eyebrow when thinking about what kind of mind that idea sprouted from. Because, well, there are patterns. Similarities. Likes, dislikes, baggage from the Writer’s past and present. No matter how well the writer tries to hide it, no matter how good his public mask, the more he writes the more… something… leaks through.
I try to catch this and vary in my writing, and of course the four books of the Nexus Chronicles are sequels so they are related in themes and context. But there are frightening similarities between these books and other things I have written or are still writing.
The people closest to me, spouse, family, close friends, can immediately spot the similarities. The things going on in my life translated into fragments of writing. People who know me can see what I think, how I feel, sometimes even what music I was listening to.
That’s more than just a photograph. It’s an entire home video.
Then there’s the (what I call) false positives, and they are really bad in my opinion.
You write about a megalomaniac character that has a penchant for the darker tastes in life and suddenly you find yourself on a party and your companion is asking you: “So Zane, how’s the torture of the fairer sex going these days? You know there’s a deal on X-acto knives at the Home Depot right now.”
While a lot of my true personality, hobbies, habits and life filter through into my stories, there may be very important differences between me and the characters, even though the same things pop up. Maybe I am in denial about some things, maybe my subconscious is trying to tell me something, but often it means that I succeed at creating characters and showing situations that have nothing to do with me and are pure fiction.
Still it may be difficult for people to keep these things straight. Conversations can become awkward when you have to explain you people close to you what your latest novel is about, but telling your elderly Christian parents… suddenly you are a stuttering 4 year old child again.
As time passes, this will get easier, but reading what I’ve written still means that you get to know me a lot better than you could with most conversations. Even my Beloved Spouse (who doesn’t like to read what I write, nothing personal, just isn’t a reader at all) doesn’t know everything what lives inside my head and manages to worm its way onto the paper. Or e-ink.
I write. I love writing. I let my writing go free, blown it into the world for all to read. With that, I am making myself terribly vulnerable. Open. Naked. When you read my books, my stories, my snippet, hell, even my blogposts, you get to see me…. while I can see nothing of you, the Reader.