A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (well, Kansas) I thought I had to suffer to make art.
I wrote my first book in the summer after 7th grade. I'd been tormented all that year by Lisa, an ugly, colossal bitch with perpetual Hermione Hair. I had maybe one friend I could call my own. I had cousins come to visit, and frankly (sorry, guys!) they weren't much better than Lisa. Jr High, you know. Little bastards, us all.
So I immersed myself in a made-up world with distinct similarities to the Tulsa world of THE OUTSIDERS, writing thinly-veiled, very early fanfic until the wee hours of the morning. I still own the book. It's the first book I ever started and the first book I ever finished. I credit that book for giving me confidence to finish stuff before it ever occurred to me not to finish stuff.
Anyway, fast forward to college. I took a creative writing class, wrote a little piece called "Snowangels" (still unsold) and the teacher was so impressed he asked me to jump up and take a GRADUATE class.
I was out of my league with the angsty, political, wine-swilling, pipe-smoking, literary writers. They were, like way older than me, man. Plus, their stuff was crap. Since this was nigh on 25 years ago, I feel comfortable mentioning one scene that stands out. It was a shower sex scene and a drunk guy was back-hatching some chick with bacne, and while everyone else was ruminating on meaning and symbolism all I could think was gross, why would you have sex with someone like that, much less force someone else to watch it via your purple prose?
Worse, though, I got a boyfriend.
I got happy and I stopped writing.
And so I thought I was happy and so I couldn't write because one requires angst to write. I thought that for a long time. Years.
What happened was I got me a boyfriend (to become my husband) who was accepted like I'd never been. He was normal. My mom liked him. He got on with my brothers. He was in a fraternity and he opened the door on the car for me. He came from a good family. Etc. (It was all an act, thank God.)
But at the time, I adapted to being accepted with great relief.
And when you're one of the gang, well, one of a certain kind of gang, you can't write. Writing isn't a part of that crowd. Fuck, thinking isn't a part of that crowd (of which we have a sizable contingent in my neighborhood).
Since then, I realized happiness has nothing to do with it. I'm simply supposed to be on the outside looking in, always, to some degree. Isn't that, after all, what fiction does?