My background is writing. It’s what I do. It is what I studied in school, it is how I soothe the demons, and though it is not how I identify myself to others, it is how I identify with myself. Adventures in parenting, observational skills and expat stories notwithstanding, one of the main reasons for starting the blog was to get myself back into the habit of writing after a long, very long, too long self-imposed hiatus.
I’ve loved writing the blog. It is (nearly) instant gratification. A productive morning’s work yields a publishable piece (one hopes) and the feedback is there at your fingertips. There is a built-in community which encourages you and to a degree, keeps you in check. It is incredibly satisfying to see your work shared among friends, on Facebook feeds, and by word of mouth. I am grateful and humbled whenever a post does particularly well, whenever it is shared among a group, or when someone I don’t know very well seeks me out to talk to me about it. But….
While I am more than happy to identify myself as a blogger, as the writer of a blog, I also have carried around with me, for most of my life, a story. There have been times in my life when I thought the story was ready to be written and sometimes bit and pieces were. Sometimes those pieces have been mined and picked over and used for other things. Sometimes the bits have sat in notebooks or on computer disks, in filing cabinets buried in the back of my memory, in stories that I tell. Sometimes I catch a ghost of a whisper. But….
Life gets in the way. Marriage and children get in the way. Jobs and moves. Death gets in the way. The voices maintain radio silence. But….
Recently my personal planets have aligned. I am blessed with the time to write. I am blessed with if not a room, a space of my own to write. I have worked hard to retrain my fingers, retrain my brain, to blinker and blinder the process enough to get the words down. I have, in less eloquent terms, sat my ass on the chair to write.
Which is why I’m taking the next few months to write the story I’ve carried with me all this time. It’s not my story, it’s not anyone’s story, it is just a story. There is nothing special about it, it is not an important story or an epic one, nor is it a life changing story. But it is the one in me. I owe it to myself to try one last time to get it down. If I can’t manage it now, with my orbits in synch, it’s not going to happen. The world won’t end if it doesn’t happen, but if I walk away knowing I gave it my best, I can stop carrying it around like a stone weight in my heart. And if it does? Well, then I can move on to the next story.
So now, every day I write ‘the book’. (I do love a clever, pun of a title). I’m using the last eighteen months of blog writing as basic training and putting in three hours a day. It’s going well. I’ve got two solid chapters that I am happy with. They’re not perfect, they need polishing, but they are there. At some point further along I will need to turn it over to someone else, someone who doesn’t know me or isn’t afraid to make me cry who can point out the things I am too close to see, but overall I am happy with what is there, what is growing, what is happening on the page.
So what have I been doing for three hours a day, every day? I’ve chosen two small examples to share, mostly because I’m excited by them (and yes, probably because there is a teensy part of me that craves validation ) but also as proof positive that putting in the time, putting the ass in the chair does indeed pay off.
I can only hope that you find them as worthwhile reading as I have writing them.
From Chapter One:
At night, before we fell asleep, my father would sing-song the myth of creation to us. It was his lullaby, a security blanket woven of grand words and unpronounceable names we couldn’t remember from one day to the next. It was there for us to wrap ourselves up in, to curl up into when we were having trouble settling down into the night. Instead of counting sheep, or dreaming of broken boughs and splintered cradles, we fell asleep to an impossible landscape of gods and goddesses. Within our dreams, immersed in the impossible dark of those childhood nights, we relived those stories of petty jealousies and vengeful plots, of unlikely heroes and devoted wives. Our nightmares were those of quiet creatures and half-beasts, our un-conscious a labyrinth filled with myth and monster, our dreams filled with love stories spilling over into other worlds.
“In the beginning, there was Chaos. Out of Chaos came Night and the Unknowable Place where Death lived. Then came Love. Once there was Love, there was Light and Day. Once there was Light and Day, there was the Earth. And then, there was Penelope.”
and from Chapter Two:
The boy’s mom had a sickness, that’s what they told him. It was somewhere inside, somewhere deep. It wasn’t a sickness you could see, like a broken leg or a black eye, it wasn’t even a sickness that could be fixed by slicing her open and scooping it out like they did with Slow Sam’s father who always showed them the raised scars that crisscrossed his chest like a treasure map. No, this sickness was in her head, deep within the cracks and crevices of her brain. Something in there got twisted sometimes, kinked up like a garden hose, turned around and upside down. It is slow and cumbersome, that kind of sickness. It is sneaky and steadfast, meandering its way around, looking for a way in; but once it finds a foothold, it is hard to stop.
The boy’s father explained it by saying his mother had a sadness in her blood, a weeping that pushed through her body with each opening and closing of the valves of her heart. Every time her heart beat, it allowed a little more sadness into her veins, until one day there was so much sadness in her that everything else was swallowed by it. There was nothing else left.