For those of you who keep up with my stochastic entries–all seven of you–you’ll know that recently, I had a bit of a nasty experience. That’s not what I want to talk about specifically, because it’s no longer important. Perhaps it’s because I’ve got some sort of internal compass that always points me back toward what is positive or it’s a self-preservation thing, but I don’t stay down long. Not even when I’m the one doing the kicking. Oh, I’ll have a few strained moments, in which the abyss of self-pity and anguished loneliness yawns at my feet. They will pass. They must pass. There’s too much to do to go falling down into a hole I can’t climb out of.
Pain and Beauty
Many years ago, a woman I was seeing gave me the first Griffin and Sabine story for my birthday. This enchanting narrative–a storybook for adults, really–by Nick Bantock introduced a concept that has remained with me to date. Sabine recalls an episode from her childhood in a letter to Griffin in which she is speaking about walking through the forest with her father. She dropped a heavy object on her foot, but at her first cry of pain, a flurry of beautiful tropical birds took flight. This caused her to forget her injured foot and stare in wonder, at which point her father noted that beauty and pain are often paired in life.
I mentioned this because, while it may have been largely self-inflicted due to my own naivety, I’ve had quite a few painful stretches of time in recent weeks. But I can’t stay in that headspace. It’s toxic and there’s no air in there. At the same time, I have to work through the feelings and thoughts that my experience inspired. Running away does not work. I know. I’ve tried. So how do I survive in the presence of pain long enough to process and render something productive or useful from the pile of shit that was once my heart?
I read. Obsessively, like my library card is going out of style. (Was it ever in style?) I’ve read four books since I figured out the other person cast in my little drama was just using me. Four. And they were chosen at random, so, my usual criteria for What I Read did not apply. Two of the books were time-wasters, but I finished them anyway. One is full of strange things from another culture. The last was a book written by a scientist–unintentionally entertaining.
What in the Fucking Fuck?
You may well wonder what that has to do with anything. In my round about way, it brought me back to the Pie Hole, a short story that was supposed to be a series but never got any traction. I have bits and pieces of the narrative stashed in seven notebooks and not a few Word documents. But I could never seem to find the right thread to piece them together into a coherent narrative.
Then, this morning, I was mindlessly rattling around the house, unwilling to start another boring job of pay copy, sweating after a walk with the dog, and resisting the siren call of a pan of brownies on the counter. I’d already decided that this summer was going to be a time dedicated to me–my fitness, my garden, my nasty reading habit. And I’d been toying with finishing the second Pie Hole short. The problem was that such a format is alien to me. I don’t really do short stories well, and yes, there’s a way to do them well.
Giving up on dredging motivation to earn a buck, I’d consciously decided I’d pick up the latest book I’m reading–an Australian work of modern fiction. I was reading about the dilemma of one of the main characters, a painfully shy and deeply inhibited man, when a though crept across my concentration.
Why not commit to writing the Pie Hole as a novel?
I paused, turned over the idea for a moment, looked at the page I’d been reading. I’ve struggled with fiction lately because I’ve been under the misapprehension that it must be overtly meaningful, have some grand plot and point. But that’s all wrong. Sure, some fiction is like that, and I enjoy reading such meaningful prose, but then there are the plain, unassuming little works that creep into my consciousness and set up housekeeping. These often have big points, too, but they’re couched in simple, digestible stories about people doing people things and living people lives–not great tales of heroism and high drama.
The Other Voice That Usually Wins
“But writing a novel is scary.” Says another voice, the same one that tells me not to try that or this because I’ve never done it before and I’ll probably fall on my face. I’ll look stupid. I’ll fail. Some magic in the air, some alignment of the planets or shift in my body chemistry held up its hand in the face of that nasty whisper and extended a middle finger with great deliberation.
I’m not entirely sure what has changed or why I didn’t think seriously about it before, but I’m doing so now. It will be a big project, just getting the first draft pegged to the page. Likely, I’ll be at it more than a year, but it’s something that I suddenly wanted to do. And I don’t know that my flirtation with self-publication is the right way to go with this project. I tasted what that medium had to offer, and don’t feel I have what it takes to promote my work well enough. This story, as weird and pleasurable as it has been as it rambled through my thoughts in strange, quiet moments, is worth doing well and doing right.
And so, here’s a metaphorical champagne bottle bursting against the hull of my little ship. I’ve decided. And that decision has filled me with a strange cocktail of purpose and possibility. Please remind me of this, my dear readers, when I’m tearing my hair out and saying self-defeating things. I’m going to need your help.