I've been on a bit of a Jane Austen binge lately. Having only read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, not really the classic Austen, I never really understood her writing MO until I found myself watching the movies of all her books except for Northanger Abbey, as there isn't a movie of that book yet. I also watched Becoming Jane, which really started this whole Jane Austen journey. And I realized something that was very profound to me: Jane Austen had a sad life in love. She never married, had a proposal by an oaf that she declined, and died at age 42, alone. Yet all the characters in her novels find love and happiness with rich, handsome men who love them with every ounce of their souls. And hearts. And minds. And estates in the grand English countryside.
In Becoming Jane, a fictionalized "true story" if ever there was one, Jane tells her sister Cassandra that she is giving her characters- coincidentally she's writing Pride and Prejudice at the time- magnificent happiness, so grand it's practically unfathomable. This got me to thinking about myself and my life as a writer. I prefer non-fiction for the pure fact that I know it actually happened to someone. It was a real person's struggle, someone's pain and loss and heartache, it was true love and real feelings and overwhelming joy. It happened. It meant something to someone. It was genuine, not made up.
(DISCLAIMER: I have written fiction, have read loads of fiction, taken classes on fiction, and it takes immense talent, emotion, and genuine thought and feeling to write it. I also know from experience that fiction oft times comes from true life experiences. So I'm not trying to knock fiction. Hopefully you'll fully grasp my meanderings in a moment or two.)
I realized that I didn't want to write books about the life I wish I'd had, or the life I hope I'll have. Even though hope is a wonder asset, too much of it can lead to heartbreak, just like writing the life I want to happen for myself will. It's okay to hope, but I feel I have to draw the line at creating impossible fantasies for myself. In one of my all time favorite movies, You've Got Mail- and this is not the forum to discuss the grammatical errors in the title of said film- the heroine, one Kathleen Kelly says "So much of what I see reminds me of something I read in a book when, shouldn't it be the other way around?"
I want to be successful like Jane Austen. I want my books to become canonical. I want to write the book I have planned now, maybe something in epistolary format, publish my chapbook of poetry from that class I took, perhaps research and write a historical diddy about England during the second World War. But I don't want to write a life that isn't mine. I don't think my heart could handle it when it turned out to be false. I want a great love for myself, not for someone else, not for someone I'm writing, wishing it was me. I don't want my life to be something I read in a book once. It should be the other way around.