By the end of the school year, my new office in our living room was complete and facing south, it overlooked the front yard where the birds, squirrels and deer shared their world. I painted the walls, brought in furniture from around the house and gathered my personal library. Frosting the glass of the French doors and installing some favorite pieces of art, it was my haven, where I immersed myself in the process of learning how to write, researching the processes used by other writers. But I was so frustrated, obsessed by and committed to something I couldn’t see.
Character dialogs between Kathryn and James raced in my mind, pounding at the structures proposed by the professionals, trained and published writers. Kathryn and James’ dialogs were seared onto paperless memories, dismissing them as noise. The dialog of thoughts was simply fuel for the blog or self-help book I was creating. What was inside me didn’t follow the order set out by the rules I was reading, what worked for others; they knew, I didn’t.
But the flood gates opened at 3am on September 16, 2013, rushing downstairs to my IMac, the story poured out of me, breaking the barrier I had written in my journal just months earlier. A touchdown for Creativity.
By the end of the week I had written 250 pages. It wasn’t even formatted like a novel, just paragraphs of meager attempts to create the scene and capture the dialogs between James and Kathryn that raced through my fingers. Creativity wanted to prove something to me in a club-over-the-head approach. I got it.
The Universal sigh of relief probably took forests down across the nation, well, portions of middle Tennessee at least.
I began researching how to write a novel, dashed down to the library to get books, read and summarized them into simple steps. I used their processes to define the characters but it wasn’t giving me the meat of what I wanted; how do you write a story and just what is the story I’m trying to tell?
It was then that I made another meal of my words.
Crumbs of humble pie tickling my lips, I issued a psychic apology before the wild search began. My office turned inside out, I dashed upstairs to my old library, downstairs to my old office in the kitchen but failed to find my blue-line notes from that meeting at the retirement home. Panicked, I tried to remember the name of the book she wrote or the young author’s name. Stress and anxiety are always the iron ‘Get Smart’ doors to remembering where you put something. So, I let it rest. The next day I woke up and found my college-ruled paper notes in the drawer of my office armoire.
Days later, her email came back. I downloaded the book, read, summarized and studied it for two weeks then and applied its structure to my work, all the while, defining the characters following to the tried and tested rules of other writers.
I rose every day at 3am, caught in this chaotic obsession of writing and reworking the story. Other than the need to care for my kids, my only break was exercising, but even then, the ideas were pouring out of me through the music. Sweat dripping on a journal now kept in our exercise room, I’d pop off the elliptic or treadmill and smile raging, my furious hand would race to catch the thoughts, frightened I’d lose them. But I knew something critical was missing.
Then one day in October, headphones blasting music in my ears, three thoughts popped. Smile beaming, I hopped off the elliptical and wrote them down, struggling to remember their order, the premise of the thoughts. Filled with joy, I hopped back on, thought about them. The song changed. Shaking my head, I hopped back off and captured the other six thoughts.
That moment of joyful insight turned to despair when weeks later when I realized what I had done. Vulnerable and alone on a precipice, I looked back on my potential and the choices I had made. The core of me, of who I am behind all the thoughts and stuff of life, had slowly disintegrated. Tears flooding my palms, my barter for redemption demanded only one thing: honesty.