I can only vaguely remember the last time I truly enjoyed Christmas. All I can say is that I wasn't yet a teenager and I was older than six, and I had already learned that Santa Claus is not real. Whatever age I was, I know that Christmas still meant wonder and miracle to me, mostly because I loved opening presents. But it's been a long time since I've had much feeling at all about Christmas. It's funny, too, since as a Christian Christmas has taken on more and more meaning for me as I have grown older. The twelve days of Christmas now mean literal wonder and miracle and re-birth to me, re-birth being the greatest gift of them all. Yet still my heart doesn't seem to beat on Christmas.
Of course, my heart doesn't seem to beat at all, ever. My girlfriend and any future wife will surely be disappointed. Some might say that's because I'm a bad guy, cold-hearted, immature, or just an idiot. I don't discount any of these theories but I don't think that they are entirely accurate. Instead, I'm pretty sure that my problem, if it can be called a problem, is that I am a full-fledged doubting Thomas.
My friend Rob Ulmer has shared with me some of his insights and research into the doubting Thomas passages in the Bible, with his conclusion being that Jesus does not mean, at least not fully, that Thomas's doubting was either unacceptable or inferior to blind belief. If I could remember anything of importance I might have been able to share with you Rob's reasoning. Oh well. The point is that I may not be condemned for never shutting my mind off. A good thing, too, since my mind completely dominates my life and there's not a whole lot I can do about it.
Christmas and other holidays and major life events, then, don't coax any feeling out of me because they only mean something via my mind, which does not feel. Without getting into various life stories, let me simply say that I have not cried, though I have wanted to, since sometime in high school or middle school--not including when I watch movies, perhaps because I am then able to ignore my mind, but even then I think the last time I cried was in watching the Pursuit of Happyness soon after its release. In my mind I sometimes think, "I should be crying now, shouldn't I?" and then nothing happens. Or on days like Christmas, "I should be happy now, right?" and then nothing happens. Strangely, I am happy, whatever that means to me, but only as far as my mind can relate and imitate happiness to itself. Indeed, I'm worried that if my parents die before me, I won't cry or feel anything at all except the idea that my parents won't be around any longer.
What I've been saying isn't entirely true. I do feel. But only concerning other people's lives. I rejoice when my friends marry, when my father or brother succeed at work, etc.; I worry with people when they are sad, worried, overwhelmed, or whatever. Never can I feel, though, about my own life.
Now, I don't write this so that you can feel bad about me or anything. I write this so that, on one hand, I can wish my dear readers a merry Christmas (all twelve days!) and have you know that I truly hope and celebrate along with you.
On the other hand, I write this so that you can gain some insight into the predicament that I think many writers face. No writer can truly write for himself even if he (or she, obviously) tried. If a writer writes for himself then he wouldn't be considered a writer because no one would know of it. And so we must write for a public, or at least write in such a way that the public can relate to and digest in some way. This requires at least partially knowing what a life with feelings is like. Yet many writers cannot know because the mind takes the outside world and turns it into a collage of stories, images, meanings, characters, and abstract thoughts. To take a certain type of writer as an example, many find the love and romance that they write about as real in the outside world but as a myth personally. Indeed, for the majority of writers in general love and romance are personal myths because our relationships are built on the idea of love and romance and we can never move past the idea. Love and romance exist in our minds as truly wonderful things and we seek to re-create them as stories full of great characters. We can do that well, especially if that's the form of writing we choose, but when it involves real people we are frustrated the moment some of the characters do not act the way we envisioned. Characters are ours to create... but in real life, that's apparently not the case.
If you are a fledgling writer like myself and you happen to be reading this, do not think that you must become like me to be a writer. I imagine that the umbrella category to which we belong, that of artists, contains many successful people who can feel rather passionately. For some life falls apart or is extraordinarily amazing precisely because they feel so passionately. I simply mean to say that many writers, and perhaps artists in general, are like me--and my work happens to mostly reflect who I am in being frequently intellectual and non-fictional, and rarely fictional.
Basically, though, I just hope that we can get over the notion that dating a writer is somehow romantic. Yes, your particular writer may write about you, but he or she will almost certainly annoy the living hell out of you.