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the fear of forking a writer.

May 20, 2011

i’ve had a few people express reticence about dating a writer. well, not just dating a writer – being involved with a writer in any way – friends, family, etc.”i don’t want to tell you anything. because you’ll write a poem about it.” “wow, that poem was really judgmental. was it about me?” “ummmm if i say that to you, you’ll put it in your non-fiction piece.” “uh, that tic that your main female character has in your novel – yeah, that’s me.”

or something along those lines.

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i think that writers get a bum rap. (and maybe it’s female writers more than male writers – or at least female writers writing about the men in their lives. i have yet to truly examine this gender split. when it comes to relationship writing…. hm). we get a bum rap because we, at first glance, appear to be like the ever so… bland taylor swift – writing heartbroken love poems (in her case, songs) willy nilly about every partner that we break up with, or every person who breaks our heart (or our loins), or every bad date we’ve been on, and attempting to profit off of it.

and maybe a lot of writers do that. maybe we have a reputation for that. but i have to say that the people i am around – in this program, even writers i know in other creative writing programs – they don’t do that. it’s subtle and different, and this is how.

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the people i know write things – poems – about experiences. and love and all its forms is an experience. friendship and all its forms is an experience. every corner and shelf of life has an experience in it, on it, and writers pick up on all of these things, synthesize them, decide which of these things they feel most excited about, and then they write it out. and yes, i’m dealing with a biased sample of writers, because we have all grown together these past two years, and we are all in the same classes, and we are sometimes unintelligible from each other. we sometimes become conjoined. but we are still good writers. we are writers who want to live our lives, supporting ourselves using our writing.

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in my case, it’s hit and miss. i’ve written about some of the men i’ve dated, and i’ve completely ignored others in my writing – just as i’ve written about some of the people in my life (friends, family) and then not written about so many others. there is a delicate hierarchy to who i write about. for example, i will not pick out a person’s fatal flaws and then showcase them in a piece of writing. that’s hurtful and petty and odd. most often, i try to produce a portrait of someone who has touched me in a way – whether it’s ended poorly or well, whether i’m upset or happy – and i try to make them form on paper. and if i’m feeling a specific way – sad, melancholy – it will often come out in that writing. but i’m not going to point fingers or name names. there is only one poem where i did that – it’s unpublished and unedited, and stays in my archives, and besides, he was a Very Bad Man.

and really, if i’ve written about you, it means, truly, that you’ve shaken me in some awesome and frightening way, and that’s something to be proud of, to be honest. it’s something to really think of.

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and there are perks to dating a writer, too. just like there are perks to dating an artist. an artist can sketch you and you can say wow i didn’t know that i looked like that when i’m lying on my side, wow i didn’t know that i looked like that as i write. it’s an ego-thrill. and a photographer can take a picture of you, and you can say wow, look at the way my lips look. look at the way my eyelashes are on my cheek.

and so a writer explains you, describes you in the most beautiful ways. we see things that maybe you have never seen in yourself – the way your nail beds look, the way you tilt your head when you are talking, the way the tip of your tongue taps against your front teeth. the way you twiddle your middle finger and your thumb together. the way the back of your neck looks. the way you pronounce specific things, the slope of your nose, how the slide of your shoulder smells, how your jawline feels in the palm of a hand. we are trained to observe things and compute them in our crazy, creative brain, and spit them back out in beautiful forms. we see the way you act and look in your most vulnerable and your rawest moments, and we think them exquisite. we immortalize you forever in our words. even if you come out in stanzas – unnamed, but intact – you are still there. you have added yourself to our tapestry of things. it’s heady, it’s weird, it’s scary, it’s fucking beautiful.

and all creative types do this. writers and songwriters get a bad rep for supposedly writing hateful breakup odes, but it’s not limited to us. filmmakers, visual artists, actors, photographers, sculptors – they all take out anger on their art. they take the things that make them sad and upset and direct those things into a creative form. does it always come out hateful? no. often it comes out stunning, melancholy, bitter-sweet. a good thing.

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there is nothing wrong with taking an emotion and propelling your craft with it. i try never to hurt people along the way – that’s bad karma. i just try to write.

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