I have been working on The Envelope for three tedious years, trying to create something as close to perfect as possible. "Novels are never finished, they are only abandoned" and as we* close in on these last few chapter revisions, this fact seems all the more apparent.
Past relationships have suffered because of this. My first priority was to write and become a better writer, to study the masters' works and sell what I could. I had secretly convinced myself that my soul mate was a dead man with a Brooklyn accent and I surrounded myself with his books, original portraits, and collected first editions, whatever the cost. I knew that I had talent, I had the fire and I was willing to do whatever it took to watch the mother-fucker burn.
Writing is an escape, a journey some say. But writing a novel is like uprooting and moving out of state. During the years when I was hanging by a thread, the work I did on my computer kept me from losing my mind.
One of my biggest fears about becoming a mom was that I would lose my identity. Perhaps identity is the wrong word. I was afraid that I would be distracted, that my priorities would change and I would have to give up the single most important thing in my life. Some of the most well-known female writers refused to have children and maybe they were right? I was afraid that I would become less passionate, that I would wake up a housewife, clad in bonnet and apron. Barefoot in the kitchen and like every horrific motherhood-cliche. I had always been a writer if not socially or professionally, personally. What I wrote defined me. The characters I created mirrored my truths and lies, my lusts and fears. Much of the joy in my life stemmed from perfect moments with my laptop or notebook, long drives with my dictaphone. When Inspiration struck I was left ecstatic, sometimes for weeks. Working through the night to meet a self-imposed deadline was gratifying, I looked forward to all-nighters, a pot of fresh coffee and a carton of cigarettes in the freezer.
Last night I journeyed to my old watering hole, er, hot spring. I have been frequenting the place for seven years since being introduced by a very talented man who generously befriended me, supported me and told me to "get the hell out of dodge**" asap. Insomnia is like a safety, an office for people who work from home and need a change of scenery. Over the years I have met all kinds of interesting people, passing through the place, appearing in chapters disguised as characters, taking up permanent residence, fading away. Last night was the first time in well over a year that I found myself alone, working. It felt good. I enjoyed my work time and being able to focus without distraction. It is difficult to find the time in the day to write. I used to spend hours and now, minutes here and there. Archer doesn't nap yet so I type with him in my lap, mostly one-handed. Now The Envelope is almost finished and I'm trying my best to haul ass to the finish line. I'm tired. I want to work on something new. Still, I can't help but look back at all that has happened over the years while working on the MS. All of the changes that have taken place in my life and the lives of my characters. My story and theirs, on quite different paths than we set off on.
I came home to my family: my little boy, wide-awake and kicking his little legs, big-eyed and excited to see me and it felt amazing. From one world to another and I was happy to be home.
Finishing a book is a lot like birthing a child, except a child comes out of the body and creates his own story and a finished manuscript will never live up to the high standards of the author. (Unless you are James Joyce.)
I am starting to believe that the life we lead is our greatest masterpiece.
No matter what happens with the book, whether it sells or fails. Whether the next MS sells or fails. Whether anything I ever write again sells or fails, I have in my short 24 years of life created something perfect. Something so extraordinarily pristine that inspiration strikes daily. The kind of inspiration that happens during normal business hours, influenced by the miracle of a life, a soft-skinned, smiley-faced, tangible life. No more cartons of cigarettes in the freezer. No more all-night coffee/red wine binges. And that's okay. Not ALL writers have to struggle or suffer or starve. Not all writers have to live up the romantic stereotypes of chain-smoking at their desk in the rain. No more trying to categorize myself. I can be everything, a writer, a mother, a wife. It is possible to do it all, to have it all. It's even okay to want more.
Life is long...
*My charming editor, Sal and I.
**L to the A