Several years ago, I wrote a novel, as so many others seem to have done. I have written for years, but the landscape of my house and various computer hard drives is dotted with unfinished novels. This book was different. I raced home each day, full of thoughts I had while on my brief commute. I scribbled furiously, occasionally stopping to erase entire sections, because yes, I was writing longhand, because I had always pictured myself as Jo March, pen in one hand, apple in the other, pad of paper (or parchment) upon my knee, staring dreamily off into nothing, as ideas washed over me like a a spring rain washes over the fields. Oh, sorry, I said “Jo March” and suddenly thought I was Louisa May Alcott.
So, what have I done with this novel? It is sitting, somewhere in my house, cast aside, not forgotten, but not revered as it should be. I have talked about “cleaning it up” and sending it to an agent or publisher or whoever gets one first. Yet, there it sits, collecting dust, taken out once or twice a year, and its pages lovingly caressed as I contemplate sending my baby out into the world.
Because this was more than a novel. This was more than me writing the crazy thoughts that came into my brain. I was recovering from a deep sorrow, and although my friends might have said I was depressed, I do not really think I was depressed so much as anxious and scared, at the thought of raising my child without her father. I walked through those days much like an automaton would, going through the motions and devoting myself completely to my child, in the strong belief that she needed me more than I could possibly need anything myself. I felt unloved and unwanted, and at times, hopeless, knowing I was going to completely screw things up, as I apparently had my entire life. As I have mentioned before, Doctor Who changed that somewhat – watching that show, I felt myself full of hope. I recognized that we are all human (well, except a 903 year old Time Lord from Gallifrey) and we do all make mistakes. I realized that my failed marriage was not my responsibility alone, as it does take two to tango. And finally, I knew that I could have done little to prevent the accident that took my ex’s life.
So this book that I wrote lovingly, albeit somewhat badly, was an awakening. This book was the way I came back into myself. Being a loving person, I poured love into that book and each of its characters, and painstakingly did research so I could have fairly correct facts about locations I had never visited. I wrote it once, finished it, turned around and re-wrote it, revising and editing. Again, this was all longhand and the sheer act of writing in that manner was therapeutic and calming. It also took about five months, which is why I am positive this novel is shite.
Shortly after I wrote this novel, both parents died within three weeks of each other, which froze everything within me. This was different than losing my marriage and my ex, this was my entire childhood, ripped from me and the wound it left was gaping and oozing with grief and anger. This was not conducive to writing or doing much more than losing myself in bad TV and good books. I did try – I made sure I only wallowed at night, because I still had a daughter to raise and that meant doing “fun stuff” on weekends. Then, on a whim, I decided to finish my college education, so, now I justify not writing as the fact that I was writing – albeit history and English papers. I did actually start a novel in that time period, the ever-popular apocalyptic genre, but I dealt with loss of a different nature around the same time, and now, that book is painful to write. These years have flown by, with my head buried in a book constantly. I have had an eight month break, but have only briefly tried to write anything, other than this blog.
But, back to my finished novel. Yesterday, I was listening to Rod Stewart which completely took me back to those halcyon days when I was writing and waking to the life around me. So..is it time? Do I need to revisit that novel, make the corrections and finally take the plunge of submitting it? I think the answer is at least a partial “YES” – at least I need to dust it off, and rework it. I love the characters, they were born of a need deep down inside me to believe myself strong and worthy of love, but I truly think the story can be so much more than what it is now. Of course, as luck would have it, this epiphany has struck just weeks before I begin grad school full-time. And, truthfully, if I had not received the rather strange “do it” message from God this morning, I would probably slink back into oblivion. But…this morning, just as I was contemplating the book and actually this very blog post, I glanced at Facebook, where Stephan Pastis had posted a Pearls Before Swine strip about “A Day in the Life of a Writer.” If that wasn’t a sign…I don’t know what is.
Wish me luck, give me strength, and goad me into being a better writer. I need to do this now, I think the time to heal is at hand, and this book helped once, I believe it can again.