Rebecca Chekouras

I write for pleasure. The first pleasure of writing is discipline; the pleasure of repeating a complex task again and again until one has learned to perform it well. As an art student in university I learned to extract shape from visual input and set it on paper. Getting this down was work but work with immense satisfaction when the lines on the page conformed to the image in my head. Knowing how to write or draw offers all the satisfaction sleight of hand does, an ooh-ahh inspiring feat of magic I can do that most others cannot until they put in the effort. A taut narrative demands drover like attention. A lot on the loose must arrive together in one place, safe and sound: character and characterization, setting, voice (distinct for each character), dialog, backstory, motivation, reveals, tension, turns, climax, and resolution. The reward of discipline put to service in writing is that it yields story.

The second pleasure, once I had the armature of structure on which to drape story, is discovering the contents of my head. In one of my stories, after the protagonist drinks too much absinthe, “the Green Fairy shut Lila’s eyes and took her on a ten hour tour of the questionable neighborhoods lurking in her psyche.” Until I began to write, I did not know the swell of humanity my psyche harbors. To my surprise and delight, my mind is a halfway house, a Purgatory brimming with characters longing to speak. They elbow their way to the front of my imagination and wheedle until I relent and sit down to give them voice. These people have gripes. They’ve been wronged, cheated, bilked, kidnapped, redeemed, ruined and they won’t be short changed in the telling of it. They do things I can’t. They smoke. They drink too much. They make promises they can’t keep. They book European vacations for their bored dog. And when it’s over, when I have put out for them, gone all the way and given them everything they wanted, they dump me like the lazy, ungrateful shits they mostly are while I pound the cyber pavement looking for a publication that will carry these misfits out into the world.

And that brings me to the third pleasure. Writers write to be read. In writing, I am safe to reveal my deepest self to the reader, a stand-in for the world. My Cartesian self, like yours, is separated from everyone by the barrier of mind, a complex arrangement of chemical responses triggered by external stimuli. We know only what we experience and cannot truly know another anymore than we can be fully known by another. No two people read the same story. What they find in the words I put on the page is dictated by their experience, values, wants and needs, and the crisis or delight of the moment. My blue is not often your blue. But when it is, the pleasure is exquisite to the point of pain.

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