“Having a Heart, Being Alive” by Roxane Gay
I am a fiction writer who stumbled into writing nonfiction. Though I had written a handful of essays as a younger writer, I spent most of my time writing stories and trying to lose myself in the lives of imaginary others.
I also resented how as a woman, it seemed like to write nonfiction, I had to savage my own life to find stories people would be willing to hear. I wanted to keep my stories to myself.
When I began to write more essays, I thought carefully about the choices I would make in exploring myself. What parts of my life was I willing to expose? What parts of my life was I willing to share? I didn’t want to simply bare my pain and have that be enough. At the same time, I was tired of carrying my past around, unexamined.
Why do these explorations of myself matter? How do I make them matter? How do I make my words more than catharsis, more than mere excavations of pain?
I’m still finding my way to the answers to these questions.
There are never going to be universally satisfying answers to these questions. That’s okay.