Finding the Art in Everything

20 April, 2008

Not into Thrill Rides

I always thought that if I wrote for a living (in those rare moments short on self-consciousness) I'd write fiction. People say you are supposed to write what you like reading most--and I find the right novel ranks among one of earth's greatest pleasures.

But the person I am now probably couldn't write fiction. I can't bear to let things unfold on their own--a characteristic that makes me unbearable company for film-watching. I must know what comes next.

Woe is the man who has seen the movie when I haven't and knows what happens when I don't.

My friend Dave talks about his ultimate adventure being a roll-the-dice roadtrip. He thinks one should get up in the morning with the map and roll to see whether to go North, South, East, West, or to stay put. Another die says how long to drive and how long to stay.

When I consider this, my heart races in panic. Where do we start? Where do we stay? What do we eat? When do we stop for gas? When will we stop at all? What if we go too far? What if we get lost? How do we get home? How much will this cost?

That is not an ultimate adventure. That is an ultimate nightmare.

Right now, I feel fiction's departure from reality as a weighty responsibility--make that liability. Even if I "write from real life" (as everyone is advised), I still must launch characters from the known shore. But doing that means I don't know they'll be able to get back. Maybe good fiction doesn't care if it gets lost at sea, but I won't risk sailing off the edge of the earth.

It's not worth it to me.

The actual writing of the fiction, to me, bears the same horror as Dave's ideal vacation.

And I don't think it is supposed to.

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