As I prepare to self-publish my first work of fiction, it haunts me terribly that the general public doesn’t give creative writers enough credit. And so I hesitate to move forward. I’m not talking about book sales by any means. I’m talking about assumptions people make, mainly that a writer is secretly disguising their God-given imaginative talent with some sort of “cover up” that their creations are not all that, but rather truth in disguise.
Many moons ago, in the early to mid-1990s, I was on the rising poet, spoken word scene. I was so confident, I actually gave copies of my poetry to Allen Ginsburg when I met him! Sometimes I look back and flinch at my cockiness. But that’s when I have to take a step back and say, “Hey, don’t second guess yourself.” Authors and poets do need all the confidence they can get because as great as the praise is, so are the knock downs. The worst being when you don’t get credit for your creativity.
During my time as a live poet, I heard it all. Some guys who were infatuated with me thinking every poem was about them. “That one was about me. I know it.”
“Sorry, no.” That was my honest answer.
And then there were other guys who knew they didn’t stand a chance, chastising me for writing about dark topics such as bondage and discipline, assuming it was autobiographical. Hearing “What kind of guys do you hang out with?” in such a condescending manner from someone I barely respected made me shy away from the poetry scene — at least in New Jersey. And so I started performing in NYC where people were more open-minded.
I wanted to strangle the person who made the assumption that my poetry was autobiographical and scream at the top of my lungs: “I’M A WRITER, DAMN IT! GIVE ME SOME CREDIT FOR CREATIVITY AND IMAGINATION!”
The first time I had a fiction story published, I was ecstatic. I saw the magazine on a newsstand at St. Mark’s Place in NYC. It was the coolest thing in the world. How great is my life? What could be better than being in NYC and seeing your story on display for all the world to see?
My bubble burst a few days later when a gym friend assumed the story I wrote was about a friend who was having problems in her love life.
This is what we, as writers and creators, struggle with on a daily basis — the personal end of it. The comments, the critiques, the assumptions. It’s just like being bullied in school. People make up their minds about something and you can never do enough to change it.
As I’m on the verge of publishing my first fictitious book, “Love Cats” — a book that takes place in the 1980s, I have to psych myself up to the fact that many people are going to assume that the story is autobiographical. Even though it’s not. Not even close.
When they say, “Write what you know” — I really only know about three things: music, health and how to have a happy marriage. Only one of these three things is in my upcoming book: music.
For me to create many different characters, I had to dig deep into my imagination. It was very hard work, like putting together a jigsaw puzzle that has over 1000 pieces. I also had to do massive research to get certain things right.
This book is truly my baby, my muse, a book I will cherish until I die. I fell madly in love with all my characters whether they were good or bad. So much thought was put into their growth and development. During the writing process I believe I momentarily channeled the work from a higher power because some of the book came to me effortless, while other parts were so hard I had to put it away for months.
So, dear reader, THINK, before the next time you ask a writer or a poet if their work is autobiographical. It’s really a slap in the face whenever we hear such false accusations. Give us some credit for our minds, please? No matter how strange!
And to my fellow writers — this is where I say, not only to you, but as a reminder to myself. There’s always the point where you need to just let go and not worry about what others think. Nothing you do can change that. So don’t go crazy trying to change the worlds’ minds. A simple note inside your book saying, “The characters in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to someone alive or dead is purely coincidental” will suffice.