So almost four years ago I was trying to write a novel about abortion. I had this awesome story line about a pastor’s daughter that ends up pregnant and has to struggle with what she’s going to do. If she keeps the baby she honors her convictions, but it would be a black mark on her dad’s ministry and she’s seen other girls be ostracized by the church. If she aborts, she loses her convictions but spares herself and the people she loves a lot of pain. I really loved the concept (still do!) but couldn’t write it. At the time, my marriage was so strained and the grief and anger I was feeling kept getting sublimated into the characters. I had this moment when I was trying to write a difficult scene laying out why the girl and her boyfriend ended up estranged, and instead of the characters doing and saying what they should have, they kept becoming weird and abusive towards each other.
The longer I wrote the story, the more painful and freakish it got. I kept feeling like someone was going to pull a knife.
So I stopped writing it, and that was the last time I tried to write fiction. It’s odd, because fiction was and is my first love.
So the other day I was in the midst of many fervent discussions about women in media, and the way strong women are constantly punished for their strength in the media- especially in movies and TV. I passingly joked that I could write a better female superhero, and then it happened. A sparkler went off in my brain, and the writer in me said, “seriously, you. You could write one. You SHOULD write one. You’ve got free time like RIGHT NOW stupid, where’s your laptop?” So I spent some time working on a character concept, which was made easier by the multitude of discarded story lines I have laying around. I created this theme about grief and loss and growing up and having to encounter who we and the people we love really are. It also involves supervillains and a superhero, and of course in true comic book format one of the vilest villains used to be the protagonist’s mentor. And as I started figuring out where the story starts and writing it, all of this ick that’s been going on in my head started coming out in the writing again. This time it didn’t corrupt the story, it made me understand one of the reasons why stories like this are so important.
There’s this thing about symbols: they matter. Heroes like Batman and Superman matter not just because they are awesome, but because the struggles they have to endure mirror the struggles in our own lives. By seeing them face and conquer their demons, people gain the tiniest bit of hope that they can deal with the pain in their own lives. If Batman can beat the Joker how hard can it be to put up with your jerk boss, right?
So I was crying at my keyboard and thinking, “if I can make this all into words, and the words matter, maybe I can just move on.”
And then a little voice in the back of my brain said, “you aren’t the only person who has questioned your grief, your love, and your ability to make something good out of all the badness.”
I realized that I’d forgotten why I was a writer in the first place. (But I’m starting to remember.)