I’ve been reading a lot of great books by some fabulous and talented women lately. I just finished Zadie Smith’s White Teeth, which I discussed at length –probably too long, but tough– in my last post, and I’m roughly a third of the way through Cheryl Strayed’s Wild. Though Smith’s story is a tour-de-force coming of age and a no-holds-barred look at being a person of colour in a xenophobic country, Strayed’s is a memoir about hitting rock bottom and the lengths one will go to crawl out of the dark and try to find themselves on the other side.
What both tales have in common are that they are primary examples of why I want to write. What both women share about the human experience underscores why artists do what they do.
What I’m writing right now can’t compare to White Teeth. I’m pretty sure nothing I write ever will, but the focus of my book is far too removed from it. Wild, though, I’m feeding off of Wild. In RA1 I am trying to showcase that my main character is very close to an emotional rock bottom, which is very difficult because I’m not showing any kind of before. Mostly because her emotional descent has taken place over the span of nearly a decade and I want to catch her in the worst of it.
She’s not a destructive sort, like Strayed. But as I get to know her, get a feel for how she was trained, I’m seeing that she takes bad risks. Risks that could well see her die. I guess that’s a different kind of destructive.
I’ve hit emotional rock bottom, but I’ve never been the type to put myself at bodily risk. My survival instinct is too hardwired. But reading about Strayed’s experience is enlightening, and I have an idea of what I can do with my character.
If I can transmit even half the emotional power of either book into my own writing I will call myself an epic winner. This is why reading widely is so important as a writer. You learn and grow and become better.
I feel bad that I’m almost feeding off of Strayed’s misery, but that’s kind of why she published the book in the first place, right? So others could learn from her? I wish that I’d been writing my story when I went to see her speak in 2013, I would have asked about that.
These are my latest moments of wry inspiration, though I don’t know why I think these two stories are an odd place to find inspiration for my dark fantasy novel.