Monday, October 6, 2008

I Contradict Myself? Very well, I Contradict Myself

I'm 33.

Soon, I'll be 34- in November, because I am a Scorpio, and fit the hard shell of one, as well as the soft meat inside. I am anxious but mindful, desperate but constantly reassured, lonely but loved, adrift but bound, a conflux of thoughts, emotions, past, future, child, woman- in short, a writer.

Or maybe I need to specify: a fiction writer. It doesn't seem that writers of other ilk are as strange and overwhelmingly embattled and sensitive as writers of fiction and poetry are. A guy that studies Amazon kuckoberries all year isn't going to be dredging the ghosts of his past up every day in a beautiful and stressful mess of writing fiction. Every time I create a character, I feel the store of life I have in my mind stirring, whispering, rising just enough to give layers of meaning and truth to the character, but not so much that fiction becomes memoir.

Sometimes I am not sure if writing is slowly saving me or slowly killing me. Maybe both. Maybe like many great events and experiences, the contradictions form the whole.

My children and my husband put up with my writerly inclinations- and these things, let me assure you, are not affects I have put on to match some literary ideal, but simply the way I have been since I can remember. I have written since I was five, and always, always known I would be a writer. My painful and lonely childhood was gist for the mill, and par for the course with writers. It's rare to read or hear of a great fiction writer who had a lovely childhood, but certainly not unheard of. John Irving, I believe, had a 'nice' childhood, although he never knew his real father and when he finally found him, in adulthood, he had died. Irving's book, Until I Found You, was driven by this father hunger, this mystery. Most everything I write is driven by mystery. I think the infinite mystery of life is it's singular most compelling characteristic. Everything most wonderful is alternatively most elusive. Love? What is this? A feeling, an idea, a commitment, a lie, a way of life- there are as many ideas about what love is as there are people experiencing it. A good biochemist will probably tell you love is the simple evolutionary fact of survival. ( I think I just named my next poem. )

My sweet Mr. Curry is a huge reader (something I Love, Love about him and I find endlessly entertaining how surprised people always are to find that my blue collar mover of a husband is an avid reader) and so appreciates what I some degree. He doesn't 'appreciate' it the way another writer does, but by appreciate I really mean respect. He respects that there is something fundamentally important to me about writing, and he doesn't have to get it. He gets me. This includes occasional bouts of panic or panic attacks, a nasty and abusive childhood, hours and hours writing and reading, a tendency to take seriously our time with the children but not, say, keeping the car clean, an almost transparant and painful love for all people, all the time, just for existing (which is NOT cool in this day and age, and highly suspect) but also a wild and hungry sexuality, (yay marriage!) a sharp and interested mind, an endlessly loving heart.

At 33, I'm working on my second fiction novel, entitled Agitate My Heart. This novel, like children, came along when it felt like it, and not when it was convenient for us. Half way through, it has taken countless hours of writing, headaches, late nights, research, reading, and conversing to get here, and there are however many hours left until I am done. Writing this novel has happened alongside these events:

The death of both of my grandparents, after two years of their rapid decline and our caretaking and loving.

Two surgeries for me.

One surgery for Mr. Curry.


Car crash. Car totalled. Walk to work. Listen to daughter complain endlessly.

Panic attacks, evaluation, recognition, reintigration. Relief.

Three children, two dogs and four cats later, I'm still birthing this baby. I love the novel, and hate the tedium of how I work. Everyone works differently. I tend to work like Ms. Anne Lamott, who is quite vocal about what a bitch writing is for her, and how the radio station Mind Fuck plays in her head a lot when she's working.

Right- write. Mind Fuck because the ghosts come calling, and mine are scary. Scary and mean, and real.

I face my past as a woman. I have only recognized myself as a woman in the last few years, even though I had my first baby at 19. Still talking about childhood trauma is not currently in style, it's boomeranging (or boomer-aging) from talk therapy to shut up and deal, and reality is somewhere in between. Abuse never leaves us. It never goes away. But it can be successfully integrated into a new and beautiful life, if it is acknowledged. My work acknowledges my past, and sometimes writing my book is harder than when my Father called a few weeks ago, after not talking to him for 9 years, and said in his Southern voice ' Mahgggay'

In November I will be 34, and I am thinking about how OLD I am, and how impossibly YOUNG.
This is the true contradiction of our lives, and we wear it internally and externally. I am partly made of that child crying herself to sleep, and partly that young girl birthing her first baby without a clue how she would manage, and partly this 33 year old woman mother and wife who has written words almost every day of her life, and never runs out of things to say.

Clearly. ;)
Jenny Grace said...

This is a beautiful post. I think it's so amazing that you are working through all of this to create something so meaningful.

hi, it's me! melissa c said...

I think we create out best work through adversity. We would never grow otherwise.

I asked my son this very question. "When do we learn and grow the most?" Well, obviously when life is hardest.

It's unfortunate but true. It's how we get in touch with our real selves if we allow it.

It's also great therapy! he he

I'm still working on my first novel. I have decided it doesn't matter how slow I go. What am I in a hurry for?

michellewoo said...

I'm also a Scorpio and these words explain so much.

"anxious but mindful, desperate but constantly reassured, lonely but loved, adrift but bound, a conflux of thoughts, emotions, past, future, child, woman"

Keep searching.

Anonymous said...

Good luck with your writing! Very nice post.

Lola said...

Great post. I hope you never run out of words, because I love to read them!

Magpie said...

Age is weird. I'm 47, but I could be 25 or 34. I had my first and only child at 42, and in some ways I'm just getting going.

M. C. Allan (Carrie, to most) said...

this is such a beautiful and honest post, MM. thanks for sharing. really identified with a lot of it and it made me feel motivated by your discipline! also made me laugh: my husband, too, is very tolerant of the fact that our house is a wreck most of the time. hey, when there are two writers living in one place, certain tasks just aren't going to get done!

Shannon said...

i can't imagine anything more draining than writing a novel. I would love to read some of your fiction. What did you do with your first novel?

Annie said...

I've wondered about your first novel, too. Did you find a publisher? As a writer, I'm curious, how do you feel about the first novel? I've re-read some of my earliest work, and some aspects impress me, but I am appalled at the many mistakes I made with either point-of-view or a lack of focus.

I admire your commitment. Like you, for me, it's a struggle. I freely admit, my house is a wreck, and I don't like it. I'm working to find the balance between my literary life, and my life as a mom, a daughter, a sister, a friend, and a wife. Birthdays are a good time to reflect upon where we've been, where we are now, and where we're going. (My birthday is in October.) As always, thank you for sharing.

Maggie May said...

thanks for all the thoughtful responses.

my first novel was finished, and i was 22. i sent it out to five agents, and got a response from one. we went back and forth as she read the entire thing, and eventually rejected it. she said fiction is a very hard sell and please send her my next book when/if i write it. that was sandra dijisktra (hope i am remembering this right) and i did send her my next novel- this one, except incredibly STUPIDLY i sent it when i wasn't even close to being finished and before it was close to being ready to be read.

however, i got a personal response from her which i saved, and then a later email interaction, which i also saved, in which the jist of was, i am a very good writer, and keep it up.
that was awesome to get from her, i don't deny it was the single best rejection of my life, and i still feel happy when i think about it. she's the biggest agent on the west coast and it was very validating to get that kind of feedback from her.

so there i am. this time i'm not submitting until the dang thing is finished and polished to shine, which is the professional and restrained way to do it. :)

Annie said...

Based on what I've read of your writing, and your dedication to writing, I think you'll find a great agent to represent you, and you're going to be published by a reputable press. You already know, it won't happen until the book is ready, and that's half the battle, but once you've made it shine, it can definitely happen. In the meantime, you'll be working on the next book!

steenky bee said...

AHHH! I love this. Keep going! Keep going! You have an amazing talent. Your cadence is beautiful.

Everything you're going through, all that you're feeling you need this time to grow. I'm sending good vibes!!

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