My secret: I don’t live up to my writing

Happy IWSG Day! For those who are new here, I participate in the monthly Insecure Writers Support Group blog hop. Details and signup here. This month’s optional question is: Writers have secrets! What are one or two of yours, something readers would never know from your work?

I struggled to come up with an IWSG post this month. Usually I have one done by no later than Monday, and I’m usually pretty happy with it, but not this month. As much as I try to shut out the outside world and focus on my writing and my day job and my family, it’s been hard these last few days. So much pain and brutality.

It’s a bit ironic, I suppose, because I tend to write about pain and brutality. My first novel (still stuck in the hell of interminable revision) features a character who was brutalized by an abusive husband–and that dude is intent on brutalizing her again, right into a cemetery plot. My second novel (for which I have a messy first draft from last year’s NaNo) features a villain who rapes and murders kids. The main character of the short story I’m working on accidentally shoots a kid. And the short story I wrote last year that won an award features the meditations of a fed-up wife who… well, one day I’ll post the story online, and you can find out for yourself.

So what’s my secret? Am I a closet psychopath? Have I done time for murder one? Spent my youth working as an assassin for a foreign government? Nope, nope, and nope. My secret is this: I’m an almost stereotypical mild-mannered librarian. I read. I garden. I knit. And my heart breaks at accounts of real violence. There are news stories I don’t read, even though they would make good fodder for future stories. Videos I don’t watch. Movies I don’t watch. I used to love 80s slasher flicks–Jason and Freddie and Michael Myers mowing down teenagers with various sharp objects. Now that I’m not a teenager–and now that I’m a mom–I find myself actually sympathizing with… the teenagers. Sixteen-year-old me would be mortified.

And so, though I write about murder and mayhem with glorious abandon, I cannot abide the real thing. And that’s why I struggled to come up with a post and why I’ve struggled to write or concentrate these last few days. My heart breaks for the family of George Floyd, whose loved one was murdered–slowly–in front of an audience on a public street. My heart breaks for every person of color who has grown up in a racist culture, oppressed by racist systems that limit opportunity, damage bodies and souls, and sometimes kill. I am sickened by the actions of some of our police officers and the statements of some people I considered friends. And yet I am safe from the murder and mayhem. Safe to write about violence and brutality in my nice white lady world. Safe in my rural neighborhood. Safe in my white skin.

And that, my friends, is my secret. And more and more, I find it a shameful one.

5 thoughts on “My secret: I don’t live up to my writing

  1. I wonder about that too when it comes to my stories. I wrote a novel about a woman brutalist during a home invasion. It won a medal. Does that mean that everybody who enjoys thrillers is psycho? Maybe it’s something about that balance that we all bring to our lives. Ying and yang. Good and bad. I’m not sure.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think violent stories provide catharsis and an adrenaline rush from the vicarious tension. I’ve always been an adrenaline junkie, but I’m also a coward, so vicarious thrills and chills are perfect for me.


  2. My first book until very recently languished in a file folder. Why? The story’s about a mother and child abduction and her struggle to build a new life. So, after some ten years, I’m pulling this first book back out for editing and letting go. Once I believed in the story, and it’s still part of my writing life, just as violence is part of our lives, either directly or indirectly.

    Your post today affirms the deepest level of secrets that do influence us, and, if they remain hidden, make us part of those who do not speak up when something in our culture or our personal history goes wrong. Thank you for commenting on the tragedy that led to protests and that hopefully will bring about change. It is the very best memorial for George Floyd.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. I hope the memorial for George Floyd–and so many others who have been murdered by police–is a true reckoning on racism in America, followed by a true turning point.


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