Imagining scenes and story arcs come easily to me, and I think I know why.
If you care to follow me into a hidden place, perhaps you too will understand–or perhaps you won’t. I will risk being judged.
I am attracted to conflict and contradiction. I relish adversity, I feed on it in a way that makes me feel monstrous and evil. I gobble it up, I bottle it in and then I gnaw on it for years. I do not shy from confrontation but I worry at the results like a hungry lion on a well-chewed bone. Psychologically I know holding onto these things won’t help me grow as a person and contradictorily I know that they help me as a writer. My anxiety, my confidence, my despair, my happiness; sometimes I wonder if I suffer from some kind of chemical imbalance but then I justify that I don’t feel the extremes.
Logic is my best friend. Imagination is my freedom.
My imagination also has teeth. It lurks and pounces on me at times, when I am not ready for it. I think things that I never want to consider — awful concerns about my husband, my child, my future. The same thoughts offer me scenes I can use, traumatic obstacles that my characters have to overcome. Usually my tales culminate in a personal dilemma, a decision between something terrible and something heartbreaking. Surprisingly I manage happy endings, but even the reader knows that they are not eternal and come with strings attached.
I am a cynic. I am an optimist. I am both of these things at the same time and no, I am not cynical about my optimism. I am optimistic about my cynicism.
My imagination haunts me and tears at me and leaves holes in my reality. I hear things that I think have been said, I see things that I think have happened, and in that I know I am not alone, but I am concerned about the quality of my perception. There doesn’t seem to be any middle ground; it’s either (usually) negative or (sometimes) egotistical. What does that say about me?
I dislike people who say: “I’m too old to change” or “This is who I am, take it or leave it.” It’s arrogant, at any stage of life, to turn one’s back on personal growth. I am still evolving, I seem to be able to let go of some of my darkness, but I continue to dabble with the ‘what ifs’ in my life. All the way back to primary school. Let it go, says my mind, it’s done, it’s past. I want to, but I wonder… what if those anxieties, those grudges, those memories that I taunt myself with, that I trouble myself with… what if they come from the same place as my story creation? What if they also drive the conflict that creates my many, many story arcs? I don’t want to let that go. I never want to let that go, not even if it comes with a fee for the ferryman.
Is that what is meant by ‘suffering artist’? It’s not about the money, it’s all in the mind.