Most people are quite familiar with the saying, “Those who can’t DO, teach.” This statement suggests that people who have failed or would be failures in the world outside of academia end up as teachers.” Read more on this quote at: http://blogcritics.org/culture/article/those-who-cant-do-teach/#ixzz14Xx6235C
Hmmmm, “Those who can’t DO, teach.” Applying this quote to my writing life, it would appear that I can’t “love.” I mean in terms of a romantic relationship. Sustaining a long-term, committed kind of deal has been outside my skill set for as long as I can remember. Well, except for the boyfriend I had growing up. J and I were a couple (at least as far as I was concerned) for almost 8 years, give or take a few months. My next longest relationship was my marriage but I tend not to count it since I was the only one of the two of us who got married. My husband didn’t seem to feel marriage meant he shouldn’t continue to date other women. Since then, it was a revolving door of (boys) men without money, taste, respect, or manners; those with girlfriends and / or wives; sprinkle in an ex-fiance, and a commitment-phobe (whom I’m still getting over), and you have my entire love life in a few sentences.
Somehow, toward the end of that list, I began a writing career. And what do you think I write about? You guessed it, love (romance, relationships, oh my). “Those who can’t DO…”
All of my stories, no mater how many guns, demons, or day-to-day dramas I include, the main story always comes back to boy-meets-girl, girl is amazingly crapped up but boy loves her anyway, they get together and live happily ever after. I was as surprised as you. I grew up reading horror, probably not such a good thing for a developing mind, but I always was a little different. Visual entertainment consisted of monster movies, suspense and horror when I could get away with watching it. Oh the nightmares I have had. Erotica and pornography came into my life by way of Forever, by Judy Blume, an assortment of Playboy, Playgirl, and Penthouse magazines. In college, I was able to finally see the “forbidden” movies, classics such as Debbie Does Dallas (I’m old), Behind the Green Door, Deep Throat, etc.. I bought the books from the top shelves of the airport bookstores that up to that point, I’d been too embarrassed and too young to buy. Pornography can be extremely exciting, yet incredibly boring. I had to keep buying new books every few months to keep the thrill alive. And believe me, that is not something I’m proud of.
Flash forward to my late twenties. A married single parent, dead-end job, wanting desperately to live a much more adventurous life. I hadn’t ever stopped writing, but I took my skills public as a means of escaping the doldrums associated with my real life. I wrote theater reviews for a community paper, had two feature articles published, took a writing course; it satisfied me but on a limited basis. The writing I did during that time had nothing to do with romance or love. Back-to-back disasters would change that. I finally tired of my husband’s fan club so I filed for divorce. Soon into the separation, I began a new relationship that quickly got serious. When the second relationship crashed and burned, I got more active with the writing again. This time, I imagined that what would appear on the computer screen would be tales of horror. Monsters, things going bump in the night, bitter women going on killing sprees. You know, that kind of thing. But instead, what flowed from my pen to the page was a story of a woman who after her divorce (of course) discovers what real love is all about. Real love? Really? That was so far from what had happened to me that I put the story away, thinking it a fluke, an abomination. Surely, the next piece of writing would be more, well, me. Right?
Wrong. The next four stories were short pieces, all about love. Admittedly, love gone wrong, but love none-the-less. Ack! What the heck was wrong with me? At the time, I was struggling to come to grips with several crappy relationship situations, it was obvious to me that I had NO IDEA what a good romantic relationship was. How could I possibly be writing story after story about happily ever afters?
Okay, let’s hop forward a few more years. I move to a new city to make a new start of things. Clear my head, start fresh. I was a free spirit, ripping and running the streets, going to parties and happening hot spots every weekend. I was also still making horrible relationship decisions, but it didn’t matter. I was having fun. Which brought the writing back. No surprise, at this point is when I started writing erotica. I had after all come to accept my inner slut, why wouldn’t my writing reflect my more sexual nature? My sex scenes were a slightly elevated form of porn, full of intense love-making sessions between consenting adults. They mimicked the lifestyle I was living at the time. I self-published the collection, had fifty copies printed and promptly sold them all in a couple of months.
Then life took another turn. I ended up in a relationship much to my surprise. Another situation I had no business being in, but one I was determined to stick with. I tired of the meaninglessness of my party days. I felt justified in writing love stories now. And that’s what I did, a draft of fifty thousand words, all about a woman who learns to love herself. Wait. That couldn’t be right. Self-love (self-esteem, and confidence) wasn’t a type of love I was familiar with either. Once again, my story had a theme all its own.
I finally took a good look at all of my fictional writing. The stories I had written over the past eight years. All of them, from the erotic to the romantic, short story to novel length, every last one of them centered around the theme of love in a committed relationship. What the hell did I know about a committed anything? “Those who can’t DO…”
I hold the belief that all writers show up in their work. Some aspect of their personality can’t help but come through whether it be in one particular character or all of ‘em. Stephen King for example, if you’ve read more than four of his novels, you know that he grew up somewhat of an outsider, came from a lower middle class (upper lower class), household. You know that he grew up in the fifties and his influences were horror masters in their own rights. How? Well, just about all of his lead characters are outsiders in some way, shape or form. His Black characters suffer a level of prejudice most associated with the fifties, almost all of his leads come from lower class backgrounds, and the horror references (themes) can be traced back to mythos seen or created in some of the great horror writers of the thirties and forties (read Stephen King’s book, On Writing for confirmation of many of these facts).
What I learned about myself as I re-read my work is that the very traits I infuse in my characters and the plots I build for them are the very things I long for the most. Self-love, acceptance, my happily ever after – I give them what I haven’t been able to find. I’d lived enough of the bad stuff from which to draw a pretty clear picture of what the good stuff was. At least for me. My writing is my subconscious way of not giving up hope; of maintaining the belief that I am worthy, that eventually my prince will come and I will find my way to true love. I hope that my readers can relate to the characters. That any woman who might feel disillusioned by love or be in a relationship that was robbing her of her self-esteem, she’ll read one of my books and not feel so alone; she’ll identify with one of the characters and see there’s a way out. One that doesn’t always involve waiting around for rescue.
So, is “Those who can’t DO…” still true for me? Yeah, in a lot of ways it is, but I’m not going to worry so much about it anymore. Instead, I’m just going to keep on writing. That way, I get to have my happily ever afters any way I want to.