If I’m posting infrequently, it’s because I’m lost in notes and a dark nostalgia. Something uncomfortable is happening with my writing. I’m changing my approach in an intensely intimate way. Thankfully, the process isn’t too fast, as it seems to be bogged down by research. I’ve been covered in books since I realized the idea wasn’t flash, it was a novel. Well, except for December. Joe came home early in the month, so I had a good excuse.
You see, it turns out I have an agenda. I’ve got this wild notion to weave in some advice on spotting and dealing with people with low empathy, garden variety narcissists and non-violent sociopaths. My theme will be related to recovering from the damage of having one as a parent. My mother was not, but her mother was, and our relationship has been rough because of it. There are traumas my mother now carries that she’s very protective of, wounds she avoids poking, wounds healed so twisted and raw that they became contagious. She also seemed to teach me how to walk right into danger.
My agenda comes from my initial idea hitting a little too close to some personal wounds. I worked it out though, how to express my personal experiences without having to relive them. Before now, I haven’t been comfortable expressing subjects too close to home in my fiction, preferring to hide my emotions in monsters.
So, I worked out a method that would allow me to develop my idea in a more removed manner than something like freewriting about trauma or unpacking memories. I’m sure others have similar methods, I’ve just never let myself think about it before.
I’m researching and using fiction to explore concepts, building characters based on research and setting them free in story, just like I did with serial killers when I read about profiling. I’m fictionalizing the research, not my life. The difference is the research is now about subjects close to my scars.
These topics result in characters with damage that resembles my own. They aren’t a fictional me, but I empathize with them. Then I can put them through what I’ve learned about being resilient, teach them how to avoid danger and how to heal, in the way that writers are prone to do.
It’s not the emotionally nerve-wrecking idea of using personal experience as the root of creative exploration. It’s removed and theoretical, so less bothersome. It’s also a process I’m familiar with, so it feels safer even if the subjects are a little triggering.
I’m not thinking of monsters now, and yet somehow it seems darker. Tears come sometimes, even when the initial scene I envisioned has nothing but a little girl sitting on a couch, watching a family get ready for dinner. I don’t know how I’m going to explain things to Joe when he catches me weeping at my own writing. I try to cultivate a reputation that I can handle myself, despite the fact that I know he knows better.
P.S. – I highly recommend the book The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout, and the podcast Understanding Today’s Narcissist hosted by Christine Hammond to any writer, of any genre, and in fact, most human beings.
P.P.S. – Okay, so I will be fictionalizing what it is like to be forced to listen to Dale Carnegie on the way to elementary school, but everything else will be pure b.s., and that part might not even make it into the book. It’s so very unfortunate that I’ve decided to require myself to listen to him again, as he’s instructed a key character in being a better sleaze. I might have to drink for it, he always makes me feel so dirty.