I haven’t written any fiction for a long time … the last time was perhaps early this year, but even then, it was only a short bit of flash fiction. The last time I wrote extensively was February when I was finishing up my novel Eunice.
There’s a big part of me that really wants to get back into writing.
At the same time, I’m nervous to do so.
I’ve come to realise part of why writing is such a struggle … oftentimes, such a draining, painful process.
It’s incredibly isolating.
On the surface, writing fiction is typically a solitary activity (unless you’re writing collaboratively which is a different story). You are alone in front of your computer or paper, and it’s just you and the words. Even if there are people around you while you write, it’s you and the words. You’re not communicating to the outside world … not yet, at least.
But deeper … below the surface … writing requires you to truly be inside your mind. This is why I find it difficult to write with other people around. Technically, writing doesn’t have to be a solitary activity, but for me it’s much easier when it is. And that’s because writing requires you to be isolated in your mind.
When I write an essay, it’s typically about the real world. Even if it’s not (let’s say it’s an English essay on a novel) it is still grounded in the real world and, more importantly, the essence of the piece is not fiction. Also, because it’s an essay and doesn’t need a huge amount of creativity, I can write it fairly mindlessly, without applying my full mental powers to it.
The very term fiction, however, indicates that it’s about something that isn’t real. It’s about ideas and characters and places in your head. And it’s creative writing (emphasis on creative), so I really can’t do it with only half a mind. That means I put my entire mind into creating and writing about a world that doesn’t exist … with characters who don’t exist … events that didn’t happen. I truly immerse my mind in this fiction, because I need to if it’s going to be any good.
And that’s a truly isolating experience.
I come out of writing feeling this disconnection when I talk to real people. I feel even a disconnection with the world. I feel an intense sense of my own loneliness – of being in a separate mind and body from everyone else and completely unable to bridge this distance. Even then, this description doesn’t quite describe what I feel after writing fiction. I can only approximate this feeling with words like “disconnection” “loneliness” and “alienation”.
Maybe I can liken coming out of the writing shell to living life in a daze or as if it’s a dream – and not a nice dream at that. It’s more like a nightmare.
It’s switching to a different reality and in this reality you are all alone. Your characters ignore your existence. The real people who would acknowledge you are in the other reality. And you’re not quite able to be fully in that reality either … not with one foot in another place.
The more I think about my stories, the more my mind becomes entrenched in the world of them and the farther I am from reality. When I do go back to the real world, I can feel something is different.
And I feel tired. The whole process is so so tiring.
I don’t know if other writers feel this and, if they do, to what extent. I don’t know if it’s just me, or if it’s something inherent in writing about worlds and places that don’t exist. (I know writing is often based on the real world, but it is still at its core not quite the same). I do think that I like to write. Having written makes me feel incredibly fulfilled and I love my characters and the stories in my head. I want to get them out and make them into something concrete. And the act of writing itself is a beautiful incredible thing. I will never stop being in awe of it and or feeling the compulsion to write.
But I often wonder if writing stories really is good for me (or my mental health). I wonder if it’s worth it. I wonder if it will really make me happy.
And all too often, the answer in my head is “no”.