I have been thinking a lot lately about what I am trying to do with this blog and with The Lonely Time. Writing has been an interest for many years, but it always existed in a corner of my brain where fantastic things live. I think maybe we all have this part, although the contents vary greatly, I’m sure. It’s kind of like the “what I want to do when I grow up” part, where we allow ourselves to dream secret adventures, to dare to hope for unlikely events. It’s the “when I win the lottery” section, where we keep those plans that wait for time, money, overcoming fear – all of the barriers, real or imagined. Mine is full of dreams. The farm I’ll one day own. The places I want to travel. The people I’d like to meet and get to know. Some fade over time, as circumstances change. Having children, for example, is no longer a practical goal for me at my age. That one faded slowly, not gone exactly, but tucked back a bit farther, where it doesn’t pop up as much to remind me of its futility. Others require a little more suspension of disbelief, like the lottery winning one, although it can make a hell of a comeback when the jackpot grows enormous and tantalizing.
It’s a strange thing to me having moved my writing out of that corner and into reality. At first it was a little like coming into the sun from a cave, the light too bright, blinding. It was both an “Aha” moment and an “Oh, shit” moment. The fact is, this dream was an easy one to transform into reality; all it took was the act of doing it, of writing, putting words together. Once I did it, however, it became a maze that I realized I had now agreed to explore, without a map. Having written something, anything, the initial feeling of accomplishment gives way to the question of what to do with it. I can’t quite articulate how odd that feeling is, but I imagine other writers encountering the same thoughts when I read of newly discovered unpublished manuscripts surfacing out of some attic or secondhand shop somewhere. It’s impossible to know how they got there or why they remained hidden or lost, in many cases, but not difficult to imagine their writers’ sense of unease having produced something that simply existed in a sort of dormancy. Yes, I write for myself, as an expression of who I am, but it is not expressed, really, until it is read by somebody else. I suppose it is a little like making a film or a television show for an actor or director, who also wait for audiences to see the finished product, but even more difficult than that, I think, because they are producing that piece collaboratively, as part of a group who witnesses the process and the pieces as they are created. A writer works in isolation, without audience or net. It’s a safe place to create, no eyes looking over one’s shoulder, but also a tough place, especially as one wrestles with doubts.
I think that is why I am interested in being a part of a writers’ group. I imagine that it would be sort of the best of both worlds, having an audience of peers to share work or ideas with or just to commiserate together. I follow a few writers groups on Facebook, hoping for some sort of virtual support, and yesterday one of them, The Writer’s Circle, shared this:
These are difficult to remember when one is sitting alone, staring at a screen with so many doubts and fears playing out in the background of the brain. Rejecting fear is an act of faith in oneself, and that is not easy for anyone. With each word, though, those fears are made smaller, but they never go away entirely, at least not for me. They circle through, ebb and flow, and can be held at bay but not vanquished completely. And maybe that is as it is supposed to be. Writing, like any art, involves risk, and risk involves fear, so to be fearless, maybe, is an indication that one is not taking enough risks. Or maybe that is a load of crap. Who knows. I think that is a discussion for my (currently 2 member) writers’ group.
But back to my original thought about the function of my writing, the big question of why I am doing this and what it is to become. This blog and the novel are really two intertwined but separate things for me, that I know. The novel is the result of inspiration, an exploration of an idea that formed when I read the journal. It started out as a short story but has grown into a novel and has sort of taken on a life of its own, a mixture of existing words written and a story that is constantly playing out in my mind, a strange blend of visual images and snippets of conversation from characters who become a little more real to me each time I step into their metaphorical shoes. It is difficult to share with others so far, as it is incomplete, chapters that don’t stand alone well, yet, a big puzzle missing many pieces, and those pieces only exist in my mind, still loosely shaped. I have shared them with a few trusted friends, more for moral support than anything, feeling a need to hear that it makes some sort of sense even in its current unresolved state. I’ve been asked what I am going to do with it, and that is a difficult question to answer. Of course I would like to have it published, but that step is far away and involves so much that I am completely unfamiliar with that I cannot even guess at this point if, when, or how it might happen. Instead, i just focus on letting the story tell itself across the pages, and I suppose as long as I continue to feel passionate that it is a story that needs telling, that is enough.
The blog is a different story altogether, much more personal. It is my preferred form, at least at this point, and it provides an immediacy that is entirely absent in the writing of the novel. I have full and utter control of the blog and can publish instantly and frequently, getting these essays out to other eyes right away, and I enjoy that aspect of it. I also very much like the challenge of the essay format, the need to write concisely. One of my favorite writers is E.B. White. He is best known for his wonderful and enduring children’s books, of course, but his essays from The New Yorker and other magazines are brilliant. He was a master of clarity and control; reading his essays is like taking a master class for me. I have three old collected volumes of his essays, along with collected volumes of his letters and of his poems, and two biographies, and I treasure them. He was an amazingly skilled writer and, by all accounts in his biographies, a fascinating person. His work inspires this blog, although I am far too wordy for him to have approved of it, I think, but I’ll keep working at that.
A few months ago Jeremy and I were talking after a flare up of my depression. He is usually the one to point these out to me, depression being sometimes more obvious to a partner, spouse, or loved one than to the person experiencing it. While we were talking about it, he pointed out that while depressed I had lost my spark, my passion. This is common in people with depression and no surprise to either of us, but the truth was that I had lost it some time before and, while the depression came and went, the lack of passion had been there for a while. It was at about this time that I had decided to resurrect this blog and began to explore the seeds of The Lonely Time. I’m not suggesting that writing has cured my depression; it may very well always be something I have to treat and work at managing. I will say, though, that this writing work I am doing has provided me with something other than myself to focus on, something that propels me forward and takes me out of my own head, a welcome respite from my own self-analysis.
Moving this blog and the novel out of that corner of my brain reserved for dreams and into the light of day has been a bit surreal so far, but I am hooked. It sometimes still takes me by surprise when I realize that this is all real. Making it real, giving it bones, has been a challenge and a gift. It’s pointless to predict where my writing will go; it has already taken me on an unexpected journey. I’m just going to keep on keeping on, and try to enjoy the path as it comes, sharing it with others who might enjoy the scenery.