Thursday, July 07, 2005

Fictionalizing reality

I have an odd habit of sometimes regarding the present in premature retrospect. Sometimes this is good: I can put events in perspective, try to make connections, be aware of the ways I change as I grow up. But I slip into this unconciously, and when I realize I’m doing it again I make myself stop, because it seems that that sort of detachment from Now can only harm me.

I have a feeling that it’s the bookworm in me that’s doing it. Not just my previously professed love of being the observer—the reader, too, and the writer. I think I’ve spent too many hours of my life immersed in the lives of other people, through books. Those third-person, past-tensers—a nice 500-pager with a flawed protagonist—they’ve become such a part of me that I find myself accidentally fictionalizing real life.

Let me explain. Sometimes I narrate my actions in my head: what I’m doing, why; the requisite scene-setting descriptions; foreshadowing, metaphors; and of course: emotions, doubts, triumphs—honest in that brutal but forgiving narrator sort of way.

Sometimes it’s in first-person, as if from a memoir written twenty years later: (to be delightfully meta about this): I was forever trying to articulate—and come to grips with—my eccentricity; a public journal, it seemed, would be almost like writing an autobiography in real-time…

Sometimes I silently add colorful adverbs and adjectives to the dialogue of people who are talking too me, or around me, if I’m bored: …she said slyly…he confessed…she lied through her teeth…he added bitterly…

I'll realize suddenly what I'm doing and make myself stop. It seems too, I don't know, cowardly of me I guess, to be fictionalizing what's real. That kind of detachment seems like a dangerous thing. And I never want to be a coward.

Though now that I think about it, maybe this is just the Truman-Show vanity and self-consciousness that everyone has (does everyone have this?)—you’re the star in your life story, and your world revolves around you… But I’m inclined to say, arrogantly perhaps, that this shouldn’t be dismissed or stigmatized as those evils egotism and false self-importance. We have to realize the importance of ourselves, don’t we? And maybe all this Ayn Rand has rubbed off on me, but is egotism really so terrible?

And now, in the excessively tedious novelization of my life…she takes off her glasses to rub her eyes with the heels of her hands and, resigned for the time being to a life of writing about writing (too rarely actually buckling down to do the thing itself), she climbs the stairs to bed and to strange dreams about immigrants in styrofoam packaging…

Good-night. (No wait: Great-night!)

12 Comments:

Anonymous oki-de-la-doki said...

i've talked about this with many people and EVERYONE does this...
i know, i thought i was the only one, but i guess it's just the post-post-modern world, or something.

(also, i haven't even started painting yet! just pencil to paper, on an easel. but although it's tedious, i'm happy to see my skills developing)

-bon soir!

12:40 AM  
Anonymous Erin said...

I've done that before. I'll be just sitting somewhere and I'll be applying the Now as if I were writing it in some story. I'll be doing something and start to think "This would work well in a story," or "I'd just change that one aspect of this person..." and I take my life out of context and put it somewhere else. I think I do this because somewhere deep down I find the present boring and am in awe of the past and of ideas for the future.

It really distresses me when I realize what I'm doing, because I should be living my life, not letting it drift by in a sort of literature-induced haze. Heh, that sounds really confusing, but that's how I feel.

I wonder if only writers do this in their heads. Probably--we are a strange breed, arn't we?

10:51 AM  
Blogger T.C. said...

Oki: Huh, I wouldn't have thought it would be common at all...but that is strangely comforting. (And I love painting, but I'm really not a very good draw-er at all. Although charcoal, oh boy, charcoal is the best. Trust me. Good luck!)

Erin: I actually chuckled at that sentence about "I'd just change that one aspect of this person..." because that's just so writerly. I do that too. I also have a vague sense of the noble hero, embittered rival, loyal sidekick, all that...Though sometimes my overactive imagination gets the better of me and I find myself inventing (not from a paranoid perspective but rather a curious one) various corrupt, scandalous, and otherwise enigmatic pasts for people.

But yes, I certainly have your same sense of distress when I realize this; I know what you mean.

And I don't know if it's just writers--I certainly can't imagine that most people do this, despite what Oki says. Heh, strange breed indeed.

Take care, m'dears. Sorry for the novel-length response; my verbosity gets the best of me ONCE AGAIN.

T

1:17 PM  
Anonymous oki-joki said...

oh, well i didn't mean the writer-y part of it, i do that too though, i think that's reserved for avid readers and the like..

but the truman-show-esque paranoia, whatever, hell-yes

also, i like painting and charcoal is so messy! but i like it too

8:06 PM  
Anonymous oki, helveticophile said...

haha tess, you're the best, i loved the link, and eventually got ten out of ten, won't tell you how many times i had to try, dearest rival, but it was greatly entertaining.

9:01 PM  
Anonymous oki, anti-arialian said...

yes,
arial.
die.
i'm forced to use it, and it's more than annoying.

9:13 PM  
Blogger T.C. said...

Oh yep, I did embarrassingly poorly the first time I did it...But then I read that short thing (a link off the article, I believe) about the tip-offs of that ugly imposter Arial (the a's, t's, R's, G's, etc.) and I did much better.

A score even to RIVAL yours, perhaps.

9:40 PM  
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