Crossroads

To slightly paraphrase Flannery O’Connor: The writer operates at a peculiar crossroads where time and place and eternity somehow meet. His or her problem is to find that location.

I think I’ll always be at a crossroads as writer. I think that’s how it is when one finishes writing a book. Aside from getting the book ready to be published, the question will always be ‘what’s next?’

What is the next story worth telling? Is it going to come in the form of a novel or will be in another form like a screenplay? Who knows.

I’m pretty comfortable with that kind of crossroads. The more interesting crossroads are the ones that have nothing with telling stories. Well, not directly.

I spent the last week hanging with my best friend as I juggled with pulling the elements of getting the book ready to be published and trying to figure out my next moves once the books become tangible objects. I’m still figuring out the next moves. 

In trying to sort out the future, I was given the opportunity to revisit a part of the past that had been the most memorable and cherished time of my life. I can tell you it had nothing to do with a man. All my exes were necessary mistakes. But memorable and cherished? Yeah, right. Don’t make me laugh.

This time period involved a relationship with a creature who stole my heart the moment I laid eyes on him. He grounded me. I learned a lot about myself with him. He was everything to me. Everything had its place when he was alive.

I revisited a place yesterday afternoon where a lot of memories were made with him. I got to see others make memories with their creatures. I was asked if I missed what had taken up 12 years of my life. My response was not really. But I have my moments where I still desperately miss him.

Things made sense when he was alive.

But I was at crossroads at that time. A change was about to happen and that change didn’t include him as part of the future. I knew our paths would diverge and there was nothing I could do to stop it. I had accepted it but it didn’t mean it didn’t hurt like a fucking son of a bitch.

Ten years later, it feels like I’m heading towards another crossroads. Instead, of feeling like I’m being pulled along, it feels like I’m responsible for some energy that seems to be to leading me to the crossroads that I can’t see in the horizon yet.

Sure, they might be dreams and desires for something I want to taste and touch. But dreaming about something, wanting something is half the battle, right? You’re halfway there. It’s the other half that’s tricky.

More contemplating. Great. I guess I’ll be in contemplation mode for awhile.

Contemplating

Writing is more than a gift. It is a struggle that blesses those who see it through to the end — Nona Mae King

Even though I’ve finished writing the manuscript for my second novel and all the moving parts needed to turn it into a book are in play, I still don’t see myself as an author/novelist.

I’m fine with the word ‘writer.’ But ‘author’ and ‘novelist’ seem to carry a bit more weight and I hesitate to think of myself as having earned the right to describe myself as such.

I probably should wear the mantle of ‘author’ or ‘novelist’ more readily and without complaint considering I did complete two novels. To imagine the number of folks out there who have started writing a novel/story but never got around to finishing it for a variety of reasons, I should be proud of my achievements.

And I am proud of what I’ve done so far. As a storyteller, the second book will show the progression I’ve made from the first novel. My writing mentor has told me that my growth as a writer has been huge. I’m grateful for his comments especially when everything about the second book has been guided by research and instincts. I challenged myself on a number of levels. I’ll elaborate more on that later when the book comes out. But it’s always been my intent to push myself as a storyteller and the only way to do that is to challenge myself with the kinds of stories I want to write.

I have heard that once you write one book, the others that follow become easier. That may be correct in terms of knowing what needs to be done once the story is written. You know, all the post-production stuff (excuse the use of terminology that is more common with filmmaking) — the editing, determining the design of the book cover, where the book will be printed, etc. I’m speaking as a person who has done nothing but self-publish. Publishing houses and literary agents are foreign concepts I have not encountered yet. 

But when it comes to the actual writing of the novel or story, you do develop a better or more defined sense of how you want to map out and plan the story arc and the story arcs of your characters for the next book. But it doesn’t make telling the story any easier.

It’s kinda like when you workout. As you get stronger, the exercises and movements don’t get easier. They get harder because you know what you’re doing, you have your technique and you expect higher standards for yourself. You automatically set new goals for yourself.

The differences in approach between my first and second novels are not quite night and day but they sure as hell look that way. The story dictated my approach to each novel. Different stories, different needs, different approaches. I already know my approach for the third novel will be some sort of hybrid of the previous two with some options thrown in.

Yeah, I’m already thinking about a third novel when the second one hasn’t quite made its transition to book form. To be honest, the idea of laying the groundwork (let’s call it pre-production) for a third novel so quickly is a little surprising to me.

I dawdled and dicked around for almost two years before the premise of the second novel hit me full-throttle a over two years ago. Four years between books. I guess that’s normal for some folks. I don’t remember what I was doing exactly for two years after the first book came out. Again I was probably dicking around. But I know I was trying to figure out what the fuck I was going to write as my second book.

And it seems I won’t be dicking around for another couple years before the right story idea pops into my head. I’m quite pleased that I can gradually start working on the third book idea and then really start tackling the pre-production once the second book comes out.

I did have a story idea I was trying to develop before my boys charged into my psyche and demanded they be the second book. They were awfully persuasive. How could I resist.

That story idea is still on the board. I have a feeling it’s going to morph into something else but I haven’t figured what that will be. And no, this idea is not what I’m contemplating for the third novel. The set of characters are entirely different.

And I have a music playlist for the third novel already. Yeah, I know. What the fuck, right? There’s a certain aesthetic that’s been running around in my head for awhile since I finished the manuscript for the second novel and it’s reflected in the playlist.

The biggest question I need to answer is, can the aesthetic, that has been crawling around in the nook and crannies of my imagination, work in the story or do I borrow bits from it and create something new or different to suit the story and its characters? It’s a big-ass question that needs to be answered before any more pre-production can be done and before any writing can be done.

I think I know what the answer might be but it’s something I’ll need to bounce off my mentor. Maybe hash out a few ideas. He’s always good for that.

It should be interesting.

Disequilibrium

Disequilibrium can be a gift. Great art doesn’t come from comfort Delilah S. Dawson

For a writer or an artist, disequilibrium can definitely be gift.

I think about the ways I’ve challenged myself as a writer in regards to the some of the themes/subject matter in my next novel.

The challenge was not so much in dealing with the topics themselves. The challenge for me was not to allow anybody to negatively affect the story I wanted to tell. The minute I allow anyone to hold me back from being faithful to my characters’ stories, I have done a disservice to them. I would not have been faithful to them.

So far, I’ve been fortunate in not having to wrestle heavily with anybody’s concern about the language (i.e. swearing) that I use in my writing. When I started figuring out and exercising my literary voice, I had the odd person express their discomfort in how freely I used coarse language.

All that tells me is they have a limit to what they’ll tolerate in their reading material. I’m fine with that. But let’s be clear – I’m not changing a fucking thing just to make my writing more palatable for one person or anyone who has a ‘delicate constitution.’

So, either let your toleration levels limit you or gird yourself and see what else I have to offer as a storyteller aside from turning the book pages a beautiful jewel-toned shade of blue.

Reining in or dialling back my creativity means reining in or dialling back who I am. If you want milquetoast, you’re not getting it from me. You’re more likely to get nothing but murderous silence from me. And that’s not a good thing.

If my unbridled creative tendencies to have my characters swear like a mad motherfucker (among other things) turns your stomach, I would like to say thanks for trying to read my writing, and have a nice life.

Disequilibrium can be a good thing for the reader. As a reader, I like to be sucked in and challenged by the author. I’m saying “Bring it on. Do your best to wreck me.” I have mentioned I have masochistic tendencies in previous posts, right? Well, I bounce between masochist and sadist, to be honest.

So as a result of the kinds of stories I’d like to and want to tell, I can’t help but inevitably make life interesting for anyone who is willing to read my stories.

When I decided I wanted to try my hand at fiction writing, I didn’t set out with the intention to make people uncomfortable with my storytelling. I just wanted to figure out how to tell a good, if not great, story.

But it’s starting to look like I’m comfortable with the uncomfortable. I seem to have a tendency to want to explore things that some folks might have set specific boundaries regarding anything uncomfortable. My willingness to ‘go there’ with certain topics probably makes some folks nervous. But as an artist, the uncomfortable is interesting, exciting, probably unnerving and makes my imagination gleefully unruly and chaotic.

To be honest, an unruly, chaotic but focussed imagination is my happy place. That’s what it’s been like for me and my characters since I started writing the second novel. My happy place is untouchable. And yeah, life’s bumpy roads have tried to pry me away from my happy place in the past. That’s when disequilibrium had become too much, too heavy, and threatens my happy place. That’s when I get unruly and maybe a little too feisty to handle. At that point, I’m pretty much ready to fight anyone who gets between me and my happy place. Actually, I would do more than just fight.

I’ll just leave that thought right there.

Great art doesn’t exist solely to make the viewer or the reader feel good about themselves and about the world around them. Great art will also ask the tough questions. Great art will make the grotesque beautiful. Great art will make you think and ask questions. And great art will challenge you.

Through words or through images, those are some of the reasons I embrace disequilibrium and push myself to create.