I've been spending some time this week going through old writing files, looking for any long-hibernating pieces that I might want to finish while I have some uninterrupted time in Vermont next month. Meh...didn't find much worth pursuing. I realized I'm much more interested in finishing the first draft of what I started during Camp NaNoWriMo 2012, and working on another story or two that are bubbling in my brain.
In a lot of those older pieces, I was playing it very safe. My main characters tended to be people who were a lot like me--women around my age who'd gone to college, were creative in some way, and a bit rootless. Sometimes they were idealized versions of me--braver, or more talented, or with more resources. All pretty typical, young writer experiments, I suppose.
These days I'm working on some things about people who are very different from me. An old man. A very young married woman. People who've lived their whole lives in one place while the world moves around and past them. This writing is definitely more an exercise in imagination and empathy than in ventriloquism or wish-fulfillment.
Interestingly, one thing I've never done is write a story about a person in a wheelchair. Yet, I get frustrated at how rare it is to see any well-developed characters in wheelchairs, and that's largely because the few attempts I see at depicting such characters are created by people who...well, it's not their story.
So if I want a character like that to exist, a story like that to be told, maybe I should be writing it myself. But then the minute I create a character in a wheelchair, won't people assume it's just a thinly-disguised version of me? Probably. SO TRICKY.
Still...they say (you know..."they") every writer has at least one story that only she or he can tell. Since I've never seen a story like mine, maybe that's the story I should be telling. But it feels too obvious! It feels like cheating! I'm just now getting comfortable telling stories about people who aren't like me! Just thinking about this is making me throw a tantrum!
That's probably a sign that I'm onto something....