The Only Hero
I have just finished the first draft of a kind of memoirette, the first book-length work of this kind I have ever written. For years I avoided my own life as source material for my writing. If my fiction reflected my own life, which I knew it would, so be it, but I would not travel back where I had already been. That was before I began writing this blog and was driven by the need for material to dip into my own experiences. I soon learned that biographical stories could be as compelling as fiction as long as I remembered this one very important rule: I am not the hero or the victim.
It is very tempting to represent myself as one or both. I’m a nice fellow, after all. I have, as best I could, cheered others’ successes where I have failed, and I have from time to time made the right choice when the wrong one was readily available. What’s more, ex-girlfriends have in fact cheated on me, friends have lied to me, and stepmothers have force-fed me mashed potatoes. I’m writing a story, after all, and doesn’t every story need someone to root for? Doesn’t everyone want to root for the man who selflessly chooses right over wrong and whose suffering is always at the thoughtless hands of others? With some well-meaning editing, I could be that man!
Except I don’t want to be that man. The memoir always triumphs the instant its author’s suffering disappears. Without suffering the hero and the victim do not exist. Without suffering, there is nothing for the hero to fight against; without suffering, the victim has not been wronged. And so I must focus the lens of my memory and extract a different tale from all the stories of woe and righteousness I have told myself, one in which I am avoiding or lamenting a pain to which I am actually immune. It is always the story of a man frightened of shadows, unaware of his own strength, and heroic only in the moment he understands he had never been a victim of anything other than his own stories.
If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual and group conferencing.