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Why Fiction Isn’t My Guilty Secret

I love fiction. I almost never read non-fiction. And the past three months, I’ve been ridiculously sick. Physical sickness created space for all the emotional trauma of this year. And it all came crashing down on me, harder than it ever has. So, I read. For hours and hours a day, I read fiction. I’ve always read a lot of fiction—I’m the kind of girl who reads a book or two (or more) on a weekly basis—but even this was a lot of fiction for me. A part of me felt slightly childish for spending so much time there, but I’ve also re-realized some things about fiction.

Fiction is a place to lose yourself, a place to pretend that you aren’t you when you can’t bear to be yourself. It’s a place to run to that’s not-here, a place where no one else can follow you. It’s safe.

Fiction is a place to find yourself when you don’t want to be found. It’s a place to relate to someone else on a heart level, and, by identifying with the author or character, to discover your own heart, your own feelings, your own thoughts—even when they’re so confused that you don’t know your self.

Fiction is a place to re-ground yourself in what’s true. Sometimes life is such a maelstrom that truth is impossible to see clearly. Sometimes life blinds you. Sometimes you blind yourself. But fiction, fiction sneaks into your heart so it doesn’t have to be seen. It bypasses the eyes and tells you the truth in ways that don’t require sight or thought.

Fiction is a place to know lies as lies, to gain enough distance from them that you can recognize them. Fiction lets us separate ourselves from all those things we “know” so deeply and recognize that maybe, just maybe, some of those things are only masquerading as truth.

I love fiction. It’s been a home for me for almost as long as I can remember, a place to hide from my fears, a place to face my fears, a place to hide from all the things I couldn’t bear about my life, a place to make sense of all the things I couldn’t bear about my life, a place where I could be me—often the only place I could be me—a place of my own when I didn’t have any place.

Fiction is a beautiful thing.

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