I read an article in my school’s paper the other day about people apparently being up in arms when musicians create personas for themselves, or perform in the “wrong” genre. (For the record, the piece argued against these complaints.) Apparently, if you don’t live in rural Appalachia, you are not allowed to so much as pluck a banjo or sing with even the slightest of twangs. No chanting if you’re not a monk. No rapping if you’re not gangsta. Because then you’re lying, and lying is a big no-no.
And yet, how many of us can claim we haven’t pretended to be someone we’re not in order to impress someone else or benefit ourselves? I mean, dating sites are notorious for the padding of various “attractions” and the minimizing of muffin tops. There are countless stories of embellishing résumés, or just re-wording it to make your job sound more important. I mean, finding a way to call yourself a technician of some sort apparently earns you huge brownie points, even when it’s well known that the word has experienced a sort of importance inflation to the point where it actually means very little.
The fact is, we routinely insert fiction into our lives. (Lame pun very much intended.) It’s not always in huge ways, but we do this because we as humans love to tell stories, and, even more than that, we want to be the heroes of our own. We want to show the world that we own ourselves, that we are capable and in control. We want to prove that we have a purpose, and that the world would not be the same without us. At the same time, we also want stories to compare and add to our own.
Maybe some of this is wrong, but I am attacking it from the perspective of a writer. I tell stories, or try to. It’s a trade of sorts. And it’s nuts how many times I’ve heard “write what you know”. I get it—first get good at what you have the skills for already, and those skills will translate into your future endeavors.
But the thing is, I know a lot more than people suspect. I know what the purple unicorns in my head look like. I know how sandpaper-y the skin of a demon is in my head. I know the scent of foods I don’t yet have names for. And I know them just as well as I know joy and grief and love and hate. I know them as well as I know my family and friends, because they are my own creations.
We all know what’s in our minds and in our hearts, and I don’t think that’s necessarily fiction; at least, not a bad fiction. What’s it hurt that someone who may never have seen sheets flapping on a clothesline in the prairie breeze sings about it, anyway? We all have fond memories of someone or something; a place we called home, or a person we felt at home with. What’s it hurt that those who sing of old myths and sagas never lived them? What’s it hurt that a fantasy author writes about creatures that don’t exist? It’s all a part of the human experience, and I think that’s beautiful, and, more to the point, valid.
Maybe that’s just me, but I’d like to think that there are more people who think this way; who understand that as necessary as it is to live in the moment, it is also necessary to dream of something more or something just plain different. Life is beautiful, but so, too, are dreams.