Reading, especially fiction, has always been at least sometimes described as a means of escape. People read fiction to immerse themselves in someone else’s story. Perhaps because their own is too painful to contemplate. Perhaps because their own is too mundane.
Whatever the reason for the escapist tendency of fiction readers, I hope there will always be plenty of them, otherwise, my profession will become a hobby. And I really am rooted in the expression of self through language.
Why do I write fiction? Other than the pat answers like it’s who I am. I have to, there’s a reason that’s more utilitarian.
I don’t think I write fiction so much as my fiction writes me. I work out many of my own challenges and conundrums and heartaches through fiction. It’s like wearing new clothes and driving a rented car to a city I’ve never been to before. People I’ve never seen. Food I’ve never tasted. Weather I’ve never experienced. At the same time it is always a little familiar because at the root of it all is the Zen truth: everywhere you go, there you are. We can’t ever really get away from ourselves. We can only forget who we are long enough to pretend we can.
And that’s what fiction does. It gives us an anonymous, innocuous landscape through which we can travel and upon which we can act out our possibilities without ever really committing; without hitting that SEND button on the email of our lives. Once we make that commitment we can’t take it back. We can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube. Well, we CAN but that would be ten kinds of messy and awkward and sometimes it’s just easier not to squeeze the tube or hit ENTER OR SEND until we are absolutely sure it’s the right decision.
So yes, I shamelessly explore my own issues and angst and foibles and questions and joys and rage through the fictions of the page. And while I sometimes wonder if readers will notice and accuse me of belaboring my motifs, I’m not sure I should be too awfully concerned. The traveling muse always seems to come back to the same territory: how much am I writing for someone else and how much for me?