|Nic’s Left Edge
I’ve been a writer all my life.
It started with plays, although I can hardly remember what they were. Our elementary school library had those little booklets of plays and I made my way through them, starting at age eight and not stopping until I moved on to middle school. Along the way I wrote little plays, although memory fades–what were they about?
Anyway, I kept moving, pen in hand.
At 16, I had a small column in our town newspaper. Started at journalism school age 18. After that, I was in motion and never looked back.
Writing was my job in corporate communications and consulting, but I occasionally found time to place the odd essay or two in a literary journal, newspaper or read one on the local NPR station.
Several years ago, I thought I had a memoir in me.
Ok, let’s be honest. I knew it, really. When your college sweetheart/first husband returns out of the blue after 27 years of divorce, and you’re getting ready to marry someone else, well, there’s a story there.
But there are many ways to tell it.
And I don’t want to be a Lifetime movie kind of writer. I need the BIG HOOK. The greater meaning.
So, for about a year, I attended a weekly writing workshop in San Francisco. I got pretty far–some 90,000 words–but they were disconnected parts missing a spine. Teacher and I couldn’t agree on the through-line.
I knew what I thought it was, she didn’t agree. But I couldn’t go her way, either. I was stuck.
“Look,” she said. “You’re driven to write. Why don’t you write fiction?” And offered an out of the box idea about a story that I had no interest in writing.
And so finally, I stopped.
I didn’t intend to stop for so long, but I did– a year. A year of never opening that file.
Teaching became a great distraction. It kept me busy and engaged. But in the back of my mind, I was always working on that memoir. Always trying to find the right hook. The right storyline.
Because, you see, my story’s a little complicated, with twists and turns and geographies–it’s just not linear. And if I were to take a journalist’s view and try to report all the facts, well, readers would be lost in all the back and forths. I mean, who moves to Florida and back three times? And to California and back? And lives in both places for some of the time? And gets married, remarried, married again, engaged and remarried? Not to mention all the in betweens.
Shifting scenes, shifting life–how to make sense of the mess?
That year was a blessing.
Because now, out of nowhere, I am on fire. I hadn’t written an essay in years, although when I submitted essays back in the day I had a pretty good placement rate. (That was back when they paid and writers didn’t think something written for free in the HuffPost would be an achievement.) But the other day? I wrote an essay and I think, a pretty good one.
And I’m getting ready to start back on the memoir, this time, though, trying to talk through the throughline with some new professional help. She may agree with Teacher, and if she does, I’ll listen. But she may have another take on it. I hope that happens, but I’m open. After all, I do believe in data. Because I’ve seen a talented writer accomplish nothing because professional input wasn’t solicited or welcomed.
I want to do it my way, but if I can’t, I want to do it in a way that makes sense to me.
My life has never been busier, but I’m more energized in my creative life, too.
Being around theatre people and artists may have been the catalyst for this explosion of creative energy. I’ve started working with on a new website and blog. I have an idea for some workshops. I’m redoing our kitchen in vibrant colors. We’ll be doing a lot of travel the rest of the year, to fabulous places that feed my need for visual stimulation.
And, I’m writing. More than blogging. I’m writing.
Here’s the lesson: Sometimes you just have to set something aside, even if it’s for a pretty long time. Sometimes, you can’t climb over the wall that’s blocking progress unless you rest up and regenerate. Sometimes, you just need to let a thing simmer a while to meld all the flavors. It’s a witches’ brew, really, with a little of this, a little of that and even a touch of eye of newt.
All I know now, though, is that I’m writing again.
And it feels mighty good.