I write fiction because it feels less intrusive. We invent the worlds we need to make sense of reality. It’s a safe space to enjoy taste the juicy goodness of the present moment, or stretch your heart open to let the vague foggy sadness out. No one has any idea what you’re doing, and it looks interesting and fun to watch. But writing is always confessional. The need to hide is always crushed by the weight and weirdness of the need to confess. And suddenly your characters start talking to themselves or to each other, and there lies everything you want to say.
Say you’ve had a bad day, or week, or month, or hell, even year. It may have been foundations you could not change, hurts you could not release, or taking parts of yourself out of the darkness and placing them in someone else’s light—as we all do when we are searching for that ‘me too’. You hoped that with a glance, a flash, a peek under the curtain, they would only become more curious about you. ‘I’ll take the one with the beautiful dents that cries at movies. I see potential here. Sold.’ Only that they didn’t. That’s right. Let that sink in for a moment, or a day, or a week, or…
So you turn your But I‘s into I’m sorry‘s. So you start playing Peace at Any Price, where the price is your surrender. So you let yourself dissolve and fragment, only to find out that people get what they want, and mostly hate it after. It was all pretty pointless then, wasn’t it? But you’re terrible at picking your battles. You’d pick every single one if you could, and end them all by saving both yourself and them. And you feel your heart breaking all the way to the bottom, and you write some stories to mend it instead of crying your fucking heart out. Louder. No, louder. Even louder still. I still can’t hear a damn thing.
Do you see, the thing about giving up? You don’t realise you’ve done it until it’s much too late to fight back. It starts so slowly. Your little everyday joys all line up in a row. Your hard memories soften. You reach for the sun. You want to hold it in your fist and squeeze it until it leaks light on everybody. Life is exciting and you’re full of it. Life is the door you open with your whole body. Life is the space you refuse to leave, even when it never asks you to stay. But the ease is broken up too often for you to curate your life once and for all.
Here comes the hint of disgust you feel when they tell you on the way out that you are not so easy to love. At first, you brush it off. Eventually, it swallows you whole. To be loved means to be recognised as existing, but you are invisible to everyone you refuse to please—and, once you please them, to everyone you accepted to please. Like your presence and your absence mix together only to dissolve into each other and disappear.
Out in the world, you begin to feel a barrier separating you from it. It comes disguised as a defence mechanism and you let it. Silence takes over, the worst of all evils. My friend Nadège so wisely said that a woman’s silence is her siren. If only they would hear it. If only they would see you. And then—if only you would hear yourself, not just them. If only you would see yourself, not just them.
You can’t break off from the journey, so you break off from their questioning stares instead. You curl up in your bed, your mind alive and searching, your soul tired and numb. You take long baths and long walks and look at yourself in the mirror for far too long. You begin to really know yourself. You feel at the same time that the unexpected and delightful live inside you and that your heart is a mass of wet, bloody pieces, evidence of a cliché you used to laugh at. What doesn’t kill you makes you want to die.
Except you don’t. What you really want are arms that want to hold you after dark, and minds that want to unwrap you for hours, and hearts that, like it or not, start to glow when they get close to yours. You want to find more of your people, the kind who stand at the gates of your dreams, not to break them, but to break them open for you when you shout, ‘Ready!’ Who cut your lies short and ask for the real you to please stand up. Who point to your heart and say, ‘Listen, fucking listen, please fucking listen.’ They are such gold to carry, and so you carry on living, because you know more of them are out there and you will find them.
And you will come across more who come only to steal your shine. The You were magic. You didn’t know it. I figured it out quickly and forgot it even quicker type. But there will also be those who come to make magic with you simply because they like it and because they like you. Yes, yes they do.
‘I beg your pardon,’ they will say, ‘I’ll just be here burning.’
‘Ah, don’t bother. The best parts of me aren’t even real,’ you’ll admit. ‘I created this person for others to love, and I am a little too tired tonight to bring her out.’
And they’ll say, ‘Bullshit,’ and light you when they come near and touch you anyway.
Those are your people, the people it’s safe to burst into flames with. You’ll know them, because the last thing we can resist is really being seen, especially for what we want to be. You can’t close your eyes to that or fight them when they come looking for you. Your potential unveiled is the strongest of temptations. And the ashes of that will look like fairy dust to everyone, including you, and you’ll thank yourself for still believing. How does it feel to come so close to it? I want to come that close to it.
So you get up, because you know that getting up alone might be the first step in creating the future you want to live in. Sometimes you have to go back to looking for reasons to stay alive. The café dates, the independence, the happy, hard work, or the quiet, gentle life you have built for yourself will not be enough. Fairy lights in the trees will remind you of the lights that have gone out. City breaks will remind you of their walls you could not climb, and your own you could not build. Art will remind you that they told you too soon, ‘I love you & your mind,’ until they read it and said it no more. You’ll need new reasons.
You will find them when you will be brave. When fear will creep up your spine like spiders again and you will let your people hold you and show you that there is nothing to fear.
‘I want to live, but I don’t know how to live with myself,’ you will be brave enough to tell a real person.
‘You are not the only one you have to live with. I am here, too. I want to live with you too,’ they will be brave enough to answer.
Wait for those moments. They are so precious. Even when they are gone, they leave behind the most important gift: you. They help you believe in yourself. They let you be you. They make you, you. Do not stop yourself from living them over and over again, even if they look nothing like the last one, and the one before.
Fiction looks like scratching the surface without anyone knowing what lies beneath. It’s clean, private, and intriguing. This feels more like sticking a knife into a bleeding wound and making you watch. But the beauty of it is that it’s honest, raw, and if you listen closely, you may find that it has healing powers.
Not every story I find myself in is mine to tell, and that’s a challenging aspect of writing about a life. There are things I cannot confess, because they’re not all about me at all—but even writing around them this carefully frees me. The sooner you deal with it, the sooner you heal, right? I’d better be right.
Storytellers are some of the most sensitive, intelligent, emotional, and intentional people in the world. But people with such emotional strength need twice as much fuel to fill their tanks, and can be the hardest to love. Being one still fills me with pride. Sharing my stories is a very special kind of kindness I can and want to extend to myself and to others.
The vulnerability paradox says that vulnerability is the first thing I look for in you, and the last thing I want you to see in me. But to that I finally say that if I learn so much from what other writers share, I am happy to do the same for whoever might read me. (No names, though. And no pictures. Unless they are very, very blurry.)
‘You are so good. So good. You’re always feeling so much, and sometimes it feels like you’re gonna bust open from all the feeling, don’t it? People like you are the best in the world, but you sure do suffer for it.’ – Silas House