When you’re a writer, everything is material. This makes you sort of strange and awful, if we’re being honest.
I remember one of the first things I thought after my daughter was diagnosed with horrific, debilitating disease was, Well, this is going to make a quite a story someday.
I flinch whenever I think about that.
A while back a colleague’s daughter ran away from home and an acquaintance of mine snarked, “And you know the first thing she did was call her agent to see if she could get some kind of a book deal out of it.” My acquaintance laughed merrily but the comment stung me a little too close to home. I mean, I might have waited a day or two but I probably would have at least emailed my agent.
The thing is, it seems so cold when you say it like that but for us, writing stories is our way of grappling with the things that have happened in our lives, even if the final stories bear no resemblance to the thing that happened.
I am convinced that the impulse to write my daughter’s story saved my life at the time. It was a crushing diagnosis and a terrifying time but I had this tool that helped me bear the horror of the experience and to make sense of it.
We all tell ourselves stories about our lives, about who we are and what it all means, but writers are more intentional and active about this process.
So while I’m still not exactly proud of the impulse to turn every life even into a story, I’m also glad the impulse exists.