In the story I write, the main character reaches the bottom of his downward spiral. At this point, there is nothing good about life. He understands that this is his existence now, he understands the limitations of others, and that help is not something that people are willing or able to give. He attempts to coast through a grey life with no meaning by relying heavily on memories of when times were good, and when others cared about him. Those memories fade with each recall, losing their power to help him minimally function. Until they no longer help him.
And it occurred to me today, do I have good memories?
As much as my character suffers, he has something I do not – fond memories of times with other people. Solid relationships that he never questioned.
Such is the power of fiction. You can give someone who never existed the things you wanted for yourself but never had. The things that never existed for you. You can put that someone through hell, and feel cathartic release at how they handle or do not handle it. Many if not all writers, to some degree, practice this sublimation of desire – popularly referred to as Mary/Gary Sues. There’s nothing wrong with it; what makes a writer great is how artfully they conceal their intrusion into the world they have built.
In my story, much as in reality, the main character doesn’t handle hell. He doesn’t have any reason to. He is as a dry well, dark and cold and empty, isolated deep below the earth. He is how I allow myself to feel pain.
I lack a sense of self and identity because I channel all emotions into story telling, into building characters more real than myself. They are my self. I have told my husband this before- writing and drawing, the act of creation, are what I need to do to live. But the undeniable side product of creativity is vulnerability. I’ve wrestled with intense anxiety over this. Giving others more access to my inner workings has yet to produce anything other than pain. And yet creation is the only means I’ve identified for myself that purges it.
How odd, a process that purges pain also invites it. It must mean that it matters.