not the destination…
The inversion wasn’t all about running away, getting out from under. It wasn’t just about simplifying. I was running to something too. That something was, is the story. To quote Sugar at The Rumpus, the manuscript is my second beating heart. When I’m away from it, I feel emptier. When I sent the fourth revision of the ms off to beta readers this spring, I was jealous of the time they had with it, time I wasn’t having. It was like a trial separation.
When it came back to me, I felt the need to punish it, to remind it where home is. That’s how I feel about editing.
Every step of the process of writing it has taught me something about myself. Like a coin, each lesson has two sides: the thing that I like about me, and the thing I despise. Sometimes the process allows me to fix things, move past things, grow. Sometimes I just get the chance to accept my imperfection. Writing a novel, perhaps especially the first time, is a humbling and humiliating experience.
I’m having such a hard time not writing about the #occupy movement every day, just so you know. Last night, as I started this, I was completely enrapt by the fact that Tom Morello (former lead guitarist of rage Against the Machine, a Harvard Poli-Sci grad, and ardent activist) had visited the Occupy Vancouver site, used the human mic, ad addressed the crowd. And then invited #ov to live stream his concert over their Livestream channel.
It was one of those moments, you know? Something aligned. I’ll remember it until I die.
I have high hopes for the story, high expectations. I want it to be soaring and epic and crushingly poignant. I want the story to say things, some that I think are important, and some that I can’t even see yet. Its genre is heroic or epic fantasy, but I wish for it to transcend that. At least a bit. I realize that probably every aspiring author hopes this. Otherwise, why would we write? We all want to believe that we’re special.
Driving home from Vancouver on Monday we stopped at the top of one of the passes. We got out of the Jeep and waited for all the cars to pass and then just stared. That high and that far away from anything, there’s no discernible light pollution. It’s why they put observatories on the tops of mountains. And without the ambient light of our scurrying lives to sully it, the night sky is radiant. Every star is brighter, and so many millions more are visible that it’s shocking. It literally stuns you.
Places like that make me feel small and insignificant. They put me in my place. Every time I end up in that magical spot where the heavens reach down and touch the earth I remember why I love high, lonely places so much. I remind myself that I should go there more; that it’s good for my soul. That those places break me perfectly. And then I get busy again, busy enough that the next time I get up there, out there, it’s an epiphany all over again.
So I guess there a plus side both ways.
Ultimately, I write for the process. I like creating worlds and forging lives, finding the appropriate level of torture to inflict upon my people – enough to make them stretch and grow, but not (usually) enough to break them. I dream about the idea of publishing and selling enough, just enough, so that I can write full-time. It’s not about the money though, not about getting rich. The process has and is teaching me so much about myself. The money alone would be such an empty reason. As long as the process teaches me, that’s how long I’ll write. It’s the ultimate mirror.
Our world could use more mirrors. We could stand to face the mirror more often, in general; the species I mean. We need to be taking an honest look with greater regularity. I’m not pointing fingers. Okay, I am, but I point at the guy in the mirror first. Always. Trust me.
p.s. For the recording of the Morello concert, visit OccupyVancouver.com tomorrow.
This video, a montage of moving images from the opening day at the Vancouver Art Gallery, is beautiful. Imagine is a bit clichéd, maybe, but in a beautiful way. My friend, Gena, who accompanied me on the journey, makes a cameo at 2:50. Dancing up a beautiful storm, that’s Gena.
p.s.C I fell in love with this song – this version of this song – yesterday.
- Occupy Vancouver plans rowdy protest for Dubya’s Surrey visit (theprovince.com)
- Live from Occupy Vancouver (live.theprovince.com)
- Officials quietly check out citys Occupy Vancouver options (theglobeandmail.com)