I can’t be completely in this world while making an entire new one in my head. My family needs me and I float somewhere just slightly out of reach because I am mapping, breathing, and thinking in a different rhythm. I am listening to a different season, seeing a different light, and feeling life with a borrowed heart.
I am only half engaged because there is a story driving through me at breakneck speed, even though today I sat down to Chapter Eighteen, the second to the last one, and nothing would come, it felt like a charcoal silence.
Until I wrote in nightmare language. A language I’ve always spoken. Still, it rushes through my head and then crashes onto the page like an asteroid. I spend time cleaning up the detritus and picking through the remains. Which always turn out to be mine.
I’d like to remember this time. Life is mad chaos around me. My mother moved in with us today, we still have no idea if we’ll get to keep living here, my son is red flagging himself for help so that we spent two hours at the psychologist’s office, and I’m working a paid job and trying to parent, to avoid having the department of health and human services called on me, taking in neglected stray children, and I’m sitting on the last two chapters of the first novel I’ve ever gotten so far with. I’m sitting on my life’s ambition, a powder keg of expectation and effort.
I want to remember how impossible getting to this point has been and yet how if you just keep doing it, keep sitting down at the desk, even if you have to stare at a blank page for an hour, it will come because it has to come. Scratch at small words, timid brushes against the wall, keep pushing and it will burst through like a broke dam.
Have you any idea how many hundreds of times I’ve sat down to write a novel, how many times I felt it trying to break through the surface and then got in my own way? I kept coming back to the desk, to the paper, the pens, the typewriter, the journals, the computer. For thirty one years I’ve been sitting down to this because I had to. The other stuff I did I did because it’s more lucrative and in some ways more fun. The designing is a passion and a joy and pays a lot better in general than most authors can expect to make.
That’s not what I’m here to say, to record, to remember. I get lost in details. I’m on Chapter Eighteen and it’s coming so slowly though it explodes in my head. It will need so much polishing and finishing and fixing, but I am so close to my own purpose my hair is catching on fire.
I can’t sleep, I need rest but I also need to get through this, get to this, get behind this.
I know that the hardest part is yet to come. Selling it. Selling myself. Pitching. I know that it would be classic to try to sell this one for years and end up selling the next project instead. Books, decent books, take a tremendous amount of energy to write, a great deal of time, I am here to tell you that the better the book you’re reading the more work it took and as you hold that 300 page book in your hand you should know that it takes a minimum of two years to produce it.
I have to sell a novel because it is absolutely what I am here for. This.
Though what I write here, what I’ve written on Dustpan Alley, is important too and in a different way and I think there’s more blood to drain. It’s not over.
It is inconceivable that I will not sell a novel and even if I make very little, this is what I am here to give. It’s all I really have of value.
My writer friend Emma said about writing the first two chapters of her first book, which she’s just commenced writing, that writing like she’s meant to be doing is life affirming. That sticks in my head because I know exactly what she means, I feel it.
So maybe life is crazy, too full, stressful, sad (and there’s always fresh fodder), and fucked up, but it is so much more bearable when you are are fulfilling your purpose.
So whatever yours is, think about it, ask yourself how you can pursue it, how you can be the instrument in life you were carved to be. Don’t run from it. Don’t be lazy. Don’t tell yourself lies like you can’t, or that it’s not enough. Whatever it is you’re supposed to be, whether mother, executive asshole, policeman, musician, farmer, cook, father, writer, teacher, social worker, it doesn’t matter, just do it.
It’s never too late and it’s never too early.
I must go now. Chapter Eighteen waits.