Sometimes I think I prefer the act of creating a world and its characters more than I enjoy the act of actually writing about them. I adore writing, it’s a pastime I’ve always been able to immerse myself in. But often, the act of writing something turns out to be much more difficult than originally anticipated. I wrote last week about the struggles of writing while you’re suffering from a case of writer’s block, and unfortunately, I’m still battling through it. But I’m not going to talk about that again.
Today’s post is instead about the protective nature of writers when it comes to their work. I myself am a very protective writer, especially when it comes to my characters. I mentioned it in my post on the struggles of being a shy writer; how I have always been so reluctant to tell anyone of my ideas or share any of my writing with people. In a lot of ways it was because I am naturally quite a shy and withdrawn person. I’m reluctant to show people the creative side of me in a lot of ways, because often it is the most vulnerable side. But on the flip side, showing that creative side is exactly what I want to do.
But I think the protective nature I have as a writer stems from something more than just being a shy person. I guess a little part of me is reluctant to share with people, both strangers and friends alike, something that I’ve created myself from scratch. Sometimes it’s the selfish person inside me. The quiet little voice at the back of my mind that asks why I should share my work with anyone but myself? Becoming a professional writer would mean deadlines and meetings. It would mean writing would no longer just be a hobby I could lose myself in, it would be my job. And it would mean sharing with people ideas that are uniquely mine, and the selfish, protective writer in me doesn’t like the thought of that.
Creating characters and locations for a novel idea is a wonderful experience. With nothing more than your imagination and some inspiration from outside forces, you can create something or someone that never existed until you imagined them into being. People who don’t write might be led to believe that creating a character is easy enough; just conjure up a physical appearance, a personality and a little bit of history, and you’ve got yourself a character. But in reality, bringing characters out of the depths of your imagination is so much more than that. There is a tremendous amount of planning and work that goes into creating a character or a place when writing. For either one to have real body and relatability, they have to have depths to them that might not even be experienced by the reader. Nevertheless, as a writer, they are crucial little pieces of information that I need to help me write about them. I myself need to feel like I relate to all of my characters before I would even consider giving them a story.
I’m thinking of one character in particular while I write this blog post. I’ll reveal nothing about her, except that she has been the most important character in my resume for many years now. I know her as well as I know myself, and even better than I know any of my friends or family members. She is entirely my own, and I get that warm fuzzy, excited feeling in my chest when I think about how much she’s grown as a character over the years with the help of my imagination. When you’re writing, your characters become part of who you are. My protagonist’s great joys are in a way my great joys, and I feel her pain in times of heartache. I know exactly what she would think about any situation, how her facial expressions will contort when she doesn’t like something. I know what makes her sides sore from laughing, what her deepest dreams are and which fears keep her up at night. I know everything about her.
So you have to understand then, why I may seem so reluctant to share her with anyone. The thought of sending her out into the big bad world where other people could read about her and judge her story is akin to throwing her to the wolves. It’s like stripping her naked and forcing her to walk down a crowded street. She’s had the reign of my imagination for years now – her story has dominated it longer than any other character. But she’s also had the safety of it. While she remains just a figure inside my head, she is protected from criticism and scorn. As a writer, the thought of letting people read her story is both liberating and terrifying. And it’s the same for all of my characters, and even places I’ve created over the years.
I’m not even close to finishing writing my book. And if I ever do finish it, and find myself lucky enough to have it published, I’ll be forced to let my own characters go beyond the realm of my imagination and the laptop screen. As a protective writer, that thought terrifies me, and strange as it may seem – saddens me. But as an aspiring writer, it excites me so much. It’s just a matter of figuring out which side of the writer inside of me will win, and for all my protestations and protective fears, I already know the answer.