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My Relationship with Fiction

Before I became a photographer, I studied creative writing. During my time as a graduate student at California College of the Arts, I finished my first (and very rough) draft of my novel in addition to a handful of short stories. When I started my novel, I didn’t even know it was going to be a novel. At the time, I was working with a mentor who wanted me to practice writing emotions associated with the description of a room. A single writing exercise turned in to the first two chapters of my story. Since then I have learned more about fiction through the process of writing my first novel.

It’s not easy for me to articulate my relationship with fiction because it has evolved over time. I used to believe that there was a sharp divide between myself and the material I created. The reason I chose fiction was that I wanted to explore personalities and subject matters that I thought I would never experience in my own life. It has always been too difficult for me to write about anything that too closely resembles my life. I can’t be entirely authentic because I get anxious. Part of what I feel makes Marguerite Duras, Kathy Acker, and Joan Didion influential is their authenticity. Regardless of the style or genre of their work, the voice of the piece is authentic.

Since studying writing at CCA I’ve realized that there really is no solid line that divides fiction from reality; it is more like a spectrum. For example, I’ve imparted a piece of myself in all of my characters. It would be impossible not to because I created them. I decided how they look, how they act when they get nervous or scared, how they speak, what they drink, etc. My life experiences have inevitably inspired the content in one way or another.

One of the best suggestions I adopted into my own writing practice was from Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair. Bendrix, the main character, wrote five hundred words every day: “ . . . the stream of consciousness continues to flow undisturbed, solving problems, planning ahead . . .the work has been done while one slept or shopped or talked with friends. (20) Besides developing consistency, writing every day has allowed me to maintain intimacy with the text. Because writing my novel and collection of short stories has been a long process, my relationship with fiction has been fluid. Sometimes I felt very connected to the piece, and other times I am detached or uncertain on how to continue. But, by writing everyday I’m always engaged with the story. My relationship with fiction feels like an affair because every time I sit down to work on my novel I learn a little bit more about the characters as well as myself as a writer.

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