Friday, July 20, 2012

Selling My Heart

by Kristina Wright

The stories I find the hardest to write, to finish, to edit are the ones that are the most personal. The ideas that tap-tap-tap at the back of my brain until I put down some words on paper and then step back and read what I've written... only to delete them or close the file and bury it in some "Works in Progress" folder on my hard drive.

I should say, it's never fiction that causes me this angst. Even fiction that might possibly be based on some true life event doesn't make me falter, fingers poised over the keys, wondering, "Should I write this?" For better or worse, I am a fiction writer at heart and though I may wail and moan about how a particular story or book is driving me mad, at the end of the day it's still fiction and I have some emotional distance.

No, it's the nonfiction I write that are my problem children. These nonfiction blog posts and essays are far more intimate glimpses into who I am than any piece of fiction I write. And so, I find it hard to finish these bits of literary DNA, harder still to share them with the world. It's like taking a scalpel and slicing open my chest and peeling away the flesh to show you vein, muscle, organ and bone. And though I can stitch myself back up when you are done poking and prodding and making sense of my parts, the scar remains as a reminder that I was open. Exposed. Vulnerable. Forever changed.

I have written some things here at Oh Get a Grip! that I never imagined I would share. For awhile, I adopted a persona of fearless writer-- nothing was too personal to share. That's laughable, of course, because even on my best day I am not half as fearless as some writers I know. I may put the words out there, but there's always something I'm holding back. Always some emotional truth I keep close. I may give you a glimpse of an ultrasound, but I hide the scalpel.

One of the most personal-- and therefore hardest-- piece to write was my post about my mother's death: July 25, 2007. I probably spent longer writing that blog post than any fictional story I've written since. That piece is a problem child for me, still, because I know what I intended for it to be and what I had to cut to make myself comfortable posting it. I have reread it a few times-- the words that I edited out lost forever-- and I know it's honest and true and that I have sold my heart as Fitzgerald would advise. And yet, and yet...

I long to take my problem children out of the darkness and line them up in a row-- these stories that I keep buried because they rest too close to main arteries-- and then I long to put the scalpel in the reader's hand and say, "Have at it. Here I am. See it all." And maybe that's why, as I near the fifth anniversary of my mother's death, I find myself more and more drawn to the idea of writing a memoir. Not a journal that I can tuck away in my underwear drawer or a blog post that only scratches the surface of the truth, but a memoir for the world to read (should the world want to, of course). Do I dare? Is it worth it? The fact that I ask the questions tells me I should and it is.

My life has been filled with stories that are problem children. They are still here, tucked inside my heart, waiting for the slice of the scalpel that will reveal them.


  1. I think you should write your autobiography, Kristina! (When you're ready.) Dorothy Allison has written about how long it took her to write Bastard Out of Carolina, which seems both amazingly honest and artfully done. Apparently she wrote several complete drafts before settling on one, and then she was trashed by 1970s feminists for daring to write about her life in a way that was not deemed Politically Correct. I think the passage of time has been on her side. You can always commune with yourself first by writing unedited pieces & saving them - they don't have to be shared with anyone until you decide what to do with them.

  2. I'm with Jean. Write it. You don't have to share it. I wrote a fictionalized memoir that was published. There are times I regret that, but I never regret writing it.

  3. Thanks, Jean and Kathleen. I think the time is coming...

  4. Actually when you said 2007 I was startled to realize you were one of the original bloggers we inherited Oh Get a Grip from. I forget sometimes this blog comes from somewhere, like many years ago when I heard a girl in a Music CD store say "I didn't know McCartney was in another band before Wings . . . "

    Many of the craft books spend a lot of time trying to get writers to do what you;re talking about here, which is to bleed a little when you write. I think that is when writing is the best thing in the whole world.


  5. Like Garce, I was startled to realize you'd been at the Grip since 2007. Your posts have inspired and moved me, made me laugh and nod in agreement.

    Thank you for sharing so much of yourself with us.

    And I agree - write that memoir, if your spirit moves you in that direction.

  6. Oh no, I've unintentionally misled you! I haven't been with the Grip since 2007-- the post I was referring to was titled July 25, 2007, which was the day my mother died. I've been at the Grip since last summer. :-) But thank you for your comments.


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