Saturday, April 2, 2011

"You're a writer?"

A typical day in my writing world:

Kids were just picked up by my "thank the Lord for her, oh my God, what would I do without her?" mother-in-law.  They have a weekly snuggle night at her house, thank God.  (I love my children, but I have also realized that I desperately, truly, sincerely need good, solid blocks of time alone.)  I am free to do whatever I want for the next sixteen hours and fifteen minutes (but who's counting?).

AAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  What

About fifty million options have buzzed through my head - so many that I threaten to do nothing and succumb to veggie-outiness by plopping myself in front of the TV.  No, be productive, I tell myself.  I drag on my swimsuit, determined to get some laps in before making it over to a friend's art show.  As I pack my gear I hear the Lord say: "write first; write for an hour."

First fruits.  I've been thinking about this lately (what with spring and all, and my first attempt at growing vegetables going on in a pot in my front yard).  Yes sir, I think.  I want Him to have the best of me.

I sit down to write.  iTunes pumping out inspirational music into an eerily quiet house, I open up my manuscript (aptly titled "Book I") and scroll to the bottom, pleased to find that I'm on page 39.  Just two months ago I would have thought it impossible to get past page three (I'm a notorious starter).

I check my notes - the handwritten scribbles I eeked out on my trip to Marfa - and come up with a quick plan for the next hour.  Finish Part I, write two chapters of Part II.  I start typing.

At first it's easy.  I can relate to these characters, the young man and woman populating the pages of the first part of my book.  Writing them is like writing myself.  Which makes sense, since this book is primarily autobiographical (a work of fiction, it is still one way for me to work out my own past).  They are messy, cynical, passionate, impulsive, suspicious.  They have to fight hard for everything.  I can relate.

I finish Part I and type "Part II" across the blank, white page.  Hmmm, what now? I think as I stare.  I pull out my notes.  Lara.  This is where I introduce a new character, a young girl who also represents part of me - the innocent, trusting, God-protected part.  Me as I was intended to be.  Me before my own Fall, before the moments I learned to fear, hate, mistrust.  Even after all my years of healing, I most definitely can not relate to her.  It's like staring a stranger in the face.

"I don't like you," I think.  "You're too nice."  She's one of those sickly-sweet types that you want to hate but, at the end of the day, you can't.  You can't deny that good is, in fact, good.  You hate it because you, secretly, want it.  Self-defense at its most twisted.

My hour is almost up.  I've written one measly paragraph in the second part of my book, the Lara part.  I can already tell: she and I are going to need to have some words if I'm going to get through this, through her.  I need to understand her.  More than that, I need to forgive her.  For abandoning me, for retreating to a safe place inside of me while my older, hardened self learned to deal with the world around me.  She stayed safe while I died inside a little every day. 

Whose fault is that - hers or mine?  A mute point since we are one and the same, but the distinction feels...well, distinct.  We are still strangers.  I'm not sure if I can trust her and her innocence, the precious way she embraces everyone, unafraid, loving, open. 

My cynicism bubbles up.  Am I safe with her?  Whom will she let in to our world?  Wouldn't I be better off remaining aloof, angry, self-protected, like her counterpart in Part I? 

Tempted as I am to choose that path, I know the answer: no.  The bitchy part of me might feel safer, but she is definitely not happier.  She is certainly not whole.  There is too much missing to live like that: the two must become one.

And so I write.  On to paragraph two with ten minutes to go.

For fun, here are some pic's of my personal writer's retreat in Marfa - where it all began (thank you again Sherry and Steve!).  Enjoy!

My notes stuck up on my big, white wall.  This represents the story arc of one character.

I took my family along.  My husband helps me collect these vintage image cases and then fills them with black and whites of us and the kids.  They sit on my dresser at home and almost always
go with me when I travel.

My writing desk for the weekend.  The typewriter didn't work, so I used my notebook
and computer.  That was fine because I wanted a digital copy of my words anyway.

I love trains.  I love lines.  I love color juxtaposed against neutrality, blandness.
I love wide, open spaces (why I love West Texas).

I stayed at the Thunderbird Motel (which, unfortunately, I do NOT recommend).
I'm including this picture because I like it, and I like the graphic sensibility of the Thunderbird folks.

Per Jen's sweet request, linking up this old post with SDG today.  Be sure to stop by and visit my fellow bloggers.  You're sure to be encouraged!


  1. I love this. I don't know how I didn't see it sooner. I honestly cannot begin to express the feelings that this elicit. Words fail me. If you aren't blogging today, would you consider linking up this post to SDG. I think it would be really good to get this out there.

  2. Needing solid blocks of kidfree alone time? Um, yes, me too, me too, me too! Good job having your own little writer's retreat!

  3. I appreciate the "thank you" but feel a bit sheepish in receiving thanks for something that brings such joy to my life. I'm glad it provides you with some time to be the writer you seek. Mia

  4. You know what I loved? that you wrote for just an hour. Giving Him first. that is what I am taking away with me and thankful for form your words today! and yes...solid blocks of hours alone...I crave these as well...xo

  5. This was awesome. I can totally relate to the sickly sweet girl who sat back and let the hard girl take over. How I would love to get to the sweet girl again, but I think I've hidden her too well with walls of stones and bricks. How amazing that you can get in touch with her through your writing. Something to ponder......

  6. Way to go, sitting down and giving God your first fruits -- I admire your dedication! Today I cleaned my closet instead of doing what this time is for: writing! Yikes...better get to it!

    And I don't know if I thanked you for suggesting those three books on my Road to Faith post -- I've read all of them and loved them (Ragamuffin Gospel, Traveling Mercies and Cloiser Walk). And have you read Amazing Grace by Kathleen Norris also? I learn so much from her!

  7. Getting away and writing once in a while is a blessing. So is a good mother-in-law!