Why Writing Is so Hard

Matt Summell:

OK so—while I’m truly grateful for any and all interest in my book—I’m not sure I even know how to answer the question of how autobiographical it is. 53% in this story? 26% in that one? Kinda? Very? The book is a fiction regardless of what details I’ve taken from “real life.” I’ve selected things to include, which means I’ve also selected things not to include—it’s not the whole truth but a distortion of it, a deliberate misrepresentation to suit the needs of the story. And that’s not even taking into account all the stuff I made up.

That said, I can’t and won’t deny that parts of it are deeply personal, that it was emotionally expensive for me to write. I also cannot deny that when people call the book’s narrator, Alby, “despicable,” or “a raging idiot loser,” or “totally unlikeable,” or “a turd” (and I could go on but why bother) I feel a tinge of defensiveness shoot through me, and it’s sometimes difficult to separate which vulnerable character that tinge of defensiveness is for: Alby or myself. There are certainly things we share, most especially a heightened sensitivity. Like halogens—those light-em-ups of the periodic table—we’re both highly reactive. (Unlike halogens, no one calls us noble.) But with the idea that bad choices make for good stories, I’ve given Alby license to follow those baser impulses and do and say things I never did or would.