Originally posted on tumblr here on November 9, 2014.
I’ve been working on a book that features a lot of personal details about my life, and as you would expect, writing it has been interesting, to say the least.
As I’m writing, I’m forced to remember things in painstakingly accurate detail, and this is either excruciatingly painful or touching or hilarious or all of the above. And sometimes this sticks with me for a little bit, but then a funny thing happens – the memories disappear.
I mean, they don’t really, of course, but they become no longer my memories, real things that happened to me, but a fictional character’s memories. If I tried hard enough, if I went back through all the old pictures and documents and scrapbooks and gifts that I sifted through in the first place, in order to recall these things, I would remember. But assuming that I don’t do that, I remember things the way I wrote them. In third-person, about someone else, who is me but not me.
Little me is just a fictional character that I happen to really relate to, and even admire sometimes. The people that I miss so much are just fictional characters too. One of them is the boy in every novel that every reader, including me, falls in love with (you know every book has one). Some girls are in love with Edward Cullen…some girls are in love with their own male protagonist. I mean come on, if you think Stephenie Meyer wasn’t at least a little bit in love with Edward and Jacob, you’re a dirty liar.
And you know what, being in love with a fictional character is actually way easier than what I was dealing with before – fictional boys are SO much simpler than real ones! It really helps me to separate some things. For example, when you can turn a real person into a fictional character, and it’s NOT impossibly difficult, that probably means that your perception of them does not match up with reality. And in this case, I’ve realized that my imagination has been way better than reality ever could be, this entire time.
And now my imagination is going away and it’s placed little me and Edward Cullen and Regina George and so on and so forth into this book. And I, in reality, have no expectations now, of anyone or anything.
This is sad for me, because I place so much value on memories and try to preserve them at all costs, but it’s good, in a way. This way, I still remember things, but all of the intense emotion that accompanies those memories, the parts that make them hard to deal with, has been sucked into the black hole that is my writing.
It’s helped me to deal with hard things that have happened to me – by thinking about things in terms of a plot and creative choices, what to include, what not to include, what to change, what to move around, I also think about the choices that I and everyone else around me made and why in real life. Growing up, the answer I was given for why people did things was usually, “I don’t know.” But when you’re writing a book and trying to understand your characters, “I don’t know” is never an acceptable answer.
It’s helped me realize that I was almost never on the same page as the people around me. When I was writing chapter 11 in my mind, they were on chapter 5 (and that’s probably the best-case-scenario example I can come up with. After that I think it was more like I was on chapter 60, and they were…still on chapter 5). And yet, all this time I thought that we saw the same things.
Poking holes in your memories is a dangerous thing, but I’m glad that I’m doing it. Because as much as I wish that I was making up a LOT more of this book than I am, these things happened to me and I can either learn how to deal with them and hopefully create something beautiful in the end, or I can just be sad forever.
My only concern is that I’m becoming more and more attached to this project – it started as just something I was doing for myself that no one else would ever see, but now I kind of want it to turn into like…a real book. That you can buy, and that other people read.
That would piss A LOT of people off.
But that’s YEARS away!! Have to graduate and finish the damn thing first before I can even seriously entertain that idea. Maybe by the time I get there I won’t feel that way, or I’ll have come up with something more normal to publish.
I used to think one day we’d tell the story of us,
How we met and the sparks flew instantly,
And people would say, “They’re the lucky ones.”
I’m starting to think one day I’ll tell the story of us,
How I was losing my mind when I saw you here,
But you held your pride like you should’ve held me.
Oh, I’m scared to see the ending,
Why are we pretending this is nothing?
I’d tell you I miss you but I don’t know how,
I’ve never heard silence quite this loud.
So many things that you wished I knew,
But the story of us might be ending soon.
Now I’m standing alone in a crowded room and we’re not speaking,
And I’m dying to know is it killing you like it’s killing me?
I don’t know what to say, since the twist of fate when it all broke down,
And the story of us looks a lot like a tragedy now.
Chelsea Ricchio is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of the SPEAK OUT blog. She is also the Communications Manager for Healthy Minds Canada. She graduated from the University of Toronto in 2015 with a BA in English Literature and Book & Media Studies. She was the former president of the student group Active Minds at UofT, which hosts SPEAK OUT events on campus (from which this blog takes its name). She was diagnosed with Dysthymia and Social Anxiety. She is 22 and lives in Toronto with her cat Genie and her roommate.