by Kathleen Bradean
When I realized I had the Christmas Eve slot, I tried to think of a suitably festive entry that would, I don't know, make writer's hearts glow like twinkle lights on the tree in Rockefeller Plaza or something like that. I'd love to give every writer that rush of joy that comes when a story reveals itself. Maybe an hour of writing as gleeful as puddle-splashing used to be back when we weren't stodgy enough to care about wet shoes.
Not going to happen.
I tried. I really did. I'm not cut out for O Henry's Gift of the Magi style holiday stories. Or Dickens A Christmas Carol. Or Jean Shepherd's A Christmas Story (you probably know the movie better than his books. May I suggest Wanda Hickey's Night of Golden Memories, and Other Disasters). Or even David Sedaris' SantaLand Diaries. Every thought turned from glowing, welcoming candles in windows to the Little Match Girl freezing to death while she hallucinates. Okay, not that big of a downer, but if I wrote a Christmas story, it would probably be as melancholy as Judy Garland singing Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.
The problem is that writing that story would demand that I tap into a rather bleak moment in my life. You know how there are method actors? I'm a method writer. I cry my eyes out when I write sad scenes. (You have no idea how hard it is to admit that) A scene that takes a reader half an hour to go through may take my weeks to write, and during that time I stay immersed in the emotions I'm trying to capture so I can experience the physical part as well as the feelings, and it's exhausting. It's difficult enough to do for characters who exist only in my imagination, but at least I can walk away from it if I need to. If I'm pulled too deeply into it, I can shake it off. I'm not sure it would be that simple if I delved back into something that was very real.
Plus, oh lord, can you imagine the humiliation from pouring your soul out like that across the page? I'd be running an emotional peep show for voyeurs to examine like a frog opened on a dissection board. Would it be even worse if I exposed my guts like that and it bored readers? Oh my god. People walk past pain every day and ignore it. Would it be like being a little match girl, but striking my matches for the crowd while the indifferent world passes by?
Oh, now I'm just being histrionic. But I think this is where we talk about fear. Writers who are fearless say things frightened writers don't. They dare to dig deep into those things that make you squirm. They sit in the booth and bare their soul to anyone who plunks in a quarter. Writing erotica is a fearless thing, but it's not nearly as hard as writing raw, naked truth about yourself. I'm not sure I'm that fearless. It hurts too much. Or maybe this is where we talk about suffering for art.
Maybe one day I'll work up the courage to talk about how when I was three my parents begged me not to tell my older sisters there was no Santa because it would ruin their Christmas. I never believed in magic. I'm simply not wired that way. But then there was that year when I was in my twenties when we were so very, very poor. My daughter was three, and I wished so hard that Santa might be real, just for one night, so that when we woke Christmas morning, there might be a tree, lights, and a gift for my little girl. And how, for the first time in my life, I actually woke Christmas morning and peeked into the living room to see if Santa had visited, because I needed it that much. And of course I felt like an idiot for being disappointed, because I always knew there was no hope. Strike the match, and watch the flame die.
Great - now I've depressed the hell out of you. Merry Christmas indeed. I knew I should have trotted out a glowing tree in soft focus, with a fire crackling merrily across the room, and put a cup of wassail in your hand.
Tuesday, December 24, 2013
by Kathleen Bradean
Posted by Kathleen Bradean at 5:00 AM