stranger than fiction

I’ve been bit.

One of these Cocoamamas has gotten me bit by the writing bug, and it’s sucking me like a mosquito. It’s kind of annoying because I can’t think of anything else and I cannot get rid of it. It’s turning into a life of its own, with my right brain drifting to book ideas (short stories or novel?), creating sentences, experimenting with first and third person, wondering what’s going to happen next.

And I love it.

I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I’ve always wanted to be a lot of things. I’ve always wanted to be a singer. And a dancer. A piano player. A professor. At one point a poet, and a scientist. A fashionista. A mom and a wife. But the only thing I’ve done consistently well is write. I suppose 20 years (wow) of formal education tends to make that an inevitable destiny.

But never fiction. Good fiction is hard to write. Bad fiction is painful to read. The project started as a memoir, but that idea was scrapped early. Too many things to include, too many people to hurt. And a life that is a bit unbelievable.

Because seriously, and bear with me for just a moment as I make this point, how many other black women do you know who have two children, pursuing a joint degree at one of the top universities in the country, who also suffers from bipolar disorder and fibromyalgia? And I say this NOT to point out anything extraordinary about myself, b/c these things are not, and that’s really not my point, but to say that my actual life is too strange to make a good story.

Recently I read a draft of something where a character flashes back to a scene as a child where she was the only 6-yr-old to stuff cake in her mouth while all the other children ate “properly”. And it immediately struck me as false because I don’t know any 6-yr-olds that are so proper to drape a napkin across their lap and use their fork, nor did it strike me as believable that she would be the ONLY kid out of place. Yet, it was a true story. And while I know that truth is often strange, it sometimes just doesn’t work in a story, because it’s too strange. It just doesn’t SOUND true.

I don’t want to write a story about me, because I am strange. When I told people I was going to California, 9 months pregnant with an 18 month old to start a joint JD/PhD, people looked at me like I was crazy. And I was. “Normal,” real, sane people don’t do that. When I spent a week on the psych unit and then started the next quarter, finished my qualifying paper before my deadline, everyone told me how strong I was. I didn’t feel strong. I was scared to be home by myself. And I guess that can be a story but it’s too much, too much drama for one person to be real. And I don’t want to write a story about perseverance, or strength, or any of that stuff. I don’t even know how my story, the story of my life, ends. It might not be about any of those things.

I want to write a story about mental illness and family and friends and being scared and not knowing how things are going to turn out. But to make it believable, I need to change the truth. Ramp it down some. It can’t be about me.