As I have mentioned, my story is in shreds, new chapters blooming under my fingers with nasty little turns, and the old ones with lines shot through and several different versions of each, some in first person, some in third, and some in someone else’s voice altogether. I guess that would be my voice. I’m told this is the hard part – figuring out the structure. I know the story, I keep saying to anyone who shows the vaguest amount of interest. It’s just how I tell it that keeps changing. This story of the man who relinquishes his child into the hands of a narcissist and realizes his mistake too late, who has “intimacy issues” despite his good heart, is a story I’ve been at now for three years. My labour of love, if you will. And the words pile up at my feet, until I am wading in them up to my waist, as if through piles of paper confetti. I love this story. I love my characters, even the narcissist, maybe even especially the narcissist. I love writing it; the twists and turns and revelations, how suddenly a possibility will open up so that what I have been labouring with for months, such as how to evoke a sympathetic response when my character makes stupid mistakes, will be shockingly simple to resolve. But sometimes, it does feel like an endless journey. Too many possibilities. Too many changes.
And then… along comes a day of sanctuary, where my beloved teacher offers a prompt to launch a small group of us into writing. And I’m off and away from my novel into a place of my own; territory I know well, the back of my own hand. From a simple memory of a photograph, I write a paragraph that in itself is complete. A mini story. The following day, I transcribe the piece to the computer and an idea blooms. I continue working with the givenc sentence stem until I have five or six paragraphs that map out a life. And I like it. And it’s done. Finished. Complete. By eight o’clock that evening, I have tightened it up, deleted the superfluous and it is looking mighty fine. Next morning, I send it off to a competition. Ah. The sense of accomplishment is exhilarating.
I feel the same way one feels in the middle of a long chill winter, after a week spent in the sun with toes in the sand. I’m refreshed, restored, rejuvenated and ready to bury my arms to the elbows in the waiting pile of words that is my novel. On second thought, maybe the feeling is more akin to being in a long marriage, that is satisfying and gratifying, but has its trials and challenges, and then along comes the incredibly hot and thrilling affair, that gets all the juices flowing, the sex is fantastic and then its done. No “working things out” or coming to an understanding, or wanting him to change. It’s perfect as it is and as it was. Now it’s time to get back to the deep work involved in sustaining and maintaining an enduring relationship. In this case, my book. My book. In this case, the affair has served to spice up the relationship. No harm done. It’s a metaphor, folks, my wanton days are done. Those of the heart and flesh, at least.