I got a wake-up call recently regarding the way I've been spending my time. I don't mean to say I was entirely wasting my time, because I don't think that's possible for me. I just realized that a lot of my thoughts were focused in a direction that has no purpose. Spending far too much time thinking about something futile meant it was drawing my focus away from more worthwhile endeavors. The funny thing is, I thought I was focusing on real life for a bit, rather than my writing, but the truth is my writing is much more my real life than what I was thinking about. Confusing? I certainly thought so!
It seems that only writers have this bizarre conflict. Sure, a lot of my writing does focus on real life, so in that sense it's still about the real world. However, my fiction is where it's at when it comes to my true work-passion. That's not to say I'm going to stop writing non-fiction, because I've discovered it makes for great variety. It also improves my fiction work, making it leaner and more precise. I don't have a vomitous mass of words that I have to get out, since my non-fiction work does that for me. I also lose the need to focus on a cause in my fiction, because I write about causes on a fairly regular basis. I'm able to step away from the pulpit and stop preaching, so that my fiction is strictly about the story.
Fiction is real life to me, though. It's what I've been doing since I was twelve years old. Granted, my work at twelve was seriously limited, and would have only appealed to other twelve-year-olds, but at least I was practicing! Then, as a teenager I wrote a story of revenge against an ex-boyfriend, so it was only appealing to a teenage audience. Real grown-ups don't bother with revenge against an ex. I don't care what the divorce statistics tell you. None of that is necessary if both parties act like adults. The problem there is that most people don't.
Fiction is real work, too. In a sense it's like being an actor, except you have to have the capacity to embrace every role, every character. You have to place yourself in someone else's shoes, but not just one pair. You have to feel the emotions of the characters in order to be able to write about them convincingly. You don't just slap on a fake face and pretend to cry. You have to be able describe the gut-wrenching pain that's making you cry. You have to explain the motivation behind a person who hates women so much he wants to kill them. You have to know, deep down, why a man is angry with his wife, and why his wife did the things she did to piss him off.
It's not that I don't want a life outside of my work. I do. The life outside my work isn't quite as interested in me, however, and I'm not willing to waste time waiting on life. So, I will focus my energy where it needs to be until such time as my outside life meshes with my inner one, and I find the acceptance I crave there. My writing is who I am, though, so that's as real as it gets. It may be fiction, and I may have to imagine things that aren't an intrinsic part of my nature, but it's still me. It draws from somewhere inside of me.
So, whatever feelings I have toward my outside life will not be wasted in the long run, because they'll be channeled into my inner world. That's the joy of being a writer. Orson F. Whitney once said, "no trial that we experience is wasted," and that applies a hundred times over for writers. No emotion we feel is a waste because it turns into cannon fodder, being sacrificed for the good of our writing. Besides, if we hold it in our hearts for our writing, it remains alive inside us, available for later should we find we again have need of it.