Can you trace your journey? Look back into the blue sky and catch a glimpse of your tendrils, instead of choking on the contrail of the ones up ahead?
I don’t want to forget the exhilaration of stepping off solid ground, the day I hit Submit to sign up for my first writing class. The day I secreted myself in the bedroom of our Florida place and wrote a story from my first prompt, and out streamed the story of the day I found my brother’s body.
Every sentence I write contains the flashback to the first revelation. Writing is so hard not only because the page never quite reflects the perfection of the thoughts in my head, but because it requires pushing back the razor grass of equivocation and female desire to please (“oh, don’t be mad.”) I write for myself because I’m afraid to write for you. (Shush! “Did you like it?”)
My life as a writer, my story, has a spark, a genesis, in a burning desire to tell you how it is, how it was, how his translucent blue eyes had stayed open even though his heart had stopped and his skin drained of blood. And the words I wrote gave the twelve readers in my class an inkling, and the words I wrote gave me relief, I gave him life.
But out here in the ‘ ole real world, I apply to juried workshops fellowships retreats and writing programs, submit work to highly competitive journals contests scholarships and agents. I’m advised to play the numbers game, to collect the rejections, and I do, I’m in it, I grit my teeth and gird my loins (ha! Is that like pelvic floor exercises or what?) And I revise, revise, revise and resubmit and hit send.
And, yahoo! Sometimes I get a yes! Or two! In May, I’m one of forty writers to attend LitCamp at Esalen and in August, my short story wins me a scholarship to the Mendocino Writer’s Conference.
If you don’t buy a ticket, you won’t win the lottery. But, first, if I don’t listen for the heartbeat, I won’t hear the story.
And those revelations of my fictional characters, the ones I’m pumping blood into, imbibing with complex family history, placing in impossible dilemmas, they’re springing from my imagination, but they’re based in my emotional experience. The shit I told my therapist. The stuff only I know.
In the noise of the rushing cliff dive—the ping of another email rejection, the gut wrench of hitting submit on a piece I love, the unbelievable awesome freedom and responsibility of writing full-time—I have to take a look back.
I write to give life.