Beginning Something New
A Detour is not Abandoning the Writing Plan Entirely
It has honestly been a while since I have been “charmed” by a film. Someone (knowing I have been spending far too much time parked in front of the television screen these past months) recommended I watch The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (2018). The trailer was disappointing, I have to admit. I reluctantly started the film anyway. Besides providing me with a little romantic (comfortably predictable) escape, it also nudged me as a writer.
Beginning something new, something no one is waiting for, is difficult. So many formulas out there for how to get started - not a few of them asking: who are you writing for? And they almost always come with the caveat, “don’t wait for inspiration”. (Spoiler here:) In the film, the writer puts her romantic and professional life on hold to write the story that she needs to tell, knowing it won’t be published. I love that the film doesn’t give this part of the story a happy ending, wherein her intentions and her integrity are rewarded with permission to publish her book after all.
She’ll write something new.
I remember than I have an unpublishable novel somewhere on an external hard drive. It was worth writing. It was even worth paying an excellent consultant for feedback. It is not worth revisiting with an eye towards publication. It was never my story to tell. But that’s not to say I didn’t grow as a writer, or grow in terms of my ability to foster new, compassionate perspectives while working on it. It was a valuable practice.
I’ll write something new.
My original plan after the Lear project, was to pick up work on a memoir that I started last year. But I’ve been reading The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch, and the extent to which I’ve empathized with some of her experiences, made me realize this isn’t a good time for me to dig that deeply. And at the moment, my tendency to go inwards doesn’t need prompting.
I’ve also been wondering if writer-me hasn’t earned the right to tell that story yet. She can’t be trusted: the challenge being something parallel to writing erotica vs porn, I think. Which details are prurient? Which are a thinly disguised form of vengeance? Is that ever the right point of view from which to write a memoir? Or any form of literature?
Violence is fascinating. Victims of abuse sometimes find healing in recreating the actions of abuse under circumstances they can control1. But I feel a responsibility not to introduce more violence into the world. Healing, yes. But there is no one right way to write for everyone. A reader’s perspective is out of our control. What heals one person will hurt another.
“Don’t try to write for everyone.”
I’m not abandoning my memoir. I’ll get back to it eventually.
Today I’m doing some rewrites on Light as a Bone, a play very loosely based on bits of Horace Wells’s diaries and letters. I think it’s opening doors for me in terms of where my poetry might go from here right now.
I’m not waiting for inspiration - I’m actively listening for it.
In the language of the lapwings: