The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off” – Gloria Steinem
Novelist Barbara Kingsolver wrote her debut novel, The Bean Trees, while pregnant and suffering from insomnia. Not only that, she scribbled away at the draft inside a closet so as not to wake her sleeping husband. Jean-Dominique Bauby, author of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, suffered a massive stroke which left him paralyzed. Yet he managed to complete his novel by blinking to an assistant as she repeated the alphabet over and over again, only to pass away two days before its publication.
For the record, I haven’t sacrificed for my craft like Barbara and Jean-Dominque.
And though I may also never approach their authorial success, I could once relate to their devotion. There was a time when I possessed an admirable drive. I recall the furious energy, carrying a fire in my heart as I researched minute details of WWI France and forgotten Virginia mountain lore for my first novel. For nearly two years, I routinely rose in the dead of night to jot down scenes or descriptions that felt akin to me as my own memories. The desire to get the story right, for the emotions to ring true, filled me with an urgency that kept me going even when the destination was unclear.
I wish I could find that motivation again. But the promising vein, it seems, has turned to solid rock. My efforts these past few years have sputtered, again and again (and again).
Reasons exist, I suppose. Family matters have consumed my energies and brought details to the surface that eroded illusions of my youth. In addition, my empathetic nature, which in the past connected me to the world, instead now binds me into an emotional paralysis, punctuated by a formerly uncharacteristic rage. Some days, quite frankly, I am simply not sure I like people, at least not on the whole. As a consequence, the belief that I had something to add to the conversation – stories to share, feelings to explore – has faltered … horribly.
This understandably raises questions. Am I no longer a writer? Should I ask Therese to bequeath these periodic posts, one of my few strands of production, to someone else, allowing a “real writer” to share their insights, their gifts, and their generosity.
The latter will work itself out, I have no doubt. Writer Unboxed is my tribe and will remain so in whatever manner I serve (or observe). But the former, well, the very thought bruises my heart. Like some of you, my path into writing was a long time coming, following careers and pursuits galaxies away from the creative life. And it is for that reason, here and now I am taking a stand – I will not let this go without a fight. It is in that spirit, despite the uncertainties of our shared circumstances and my ongoing inner turmoil, that I pledge the following: