I am writing a novel.
I’m telling you this because I want the entire world to be as excited about it as I am, even though it (like pretty much everything I pour my soul into) is a heartbreaker.
I am writing a novel.
This is in between working three part-time jobs, taking care of my three kids, managing Mike’s healthcare, my activism work, and volunteer obligations. This is in between Girl Scout meetings and birthday parties and outreach events and client meetings and doctor appointments and finally– FINALLY– hanging the curtains in my living room. This is in addition to my dysautonomia worsening, and finally — FINALLY– having to take my own health much more seriously, which I fucking hate. Seriously, if there is any way to make your muscles stronger and make your body weigh less than eating healthy and exercising, please tell me, because it’s Hell.
I am writing a novel.
I’m also keeping my house tidy enough for my robot vacuum (its name is Roombert) to clean my floors for me (not well, but better than the kids). I am starting and amazingly finishing artistic projects and making dinner most nights, and planning a sixth birthday party and getting the kids enrolled in swimming lessons.
I am writing a novel, and it’s a lot more than sitting down every day to write.
It’s going to writing workshops, and critique groups, and talking over plot points and difficult scenes on the phones with literally every friend kind enough to offer a willing ear when it comes to these people living inside me who are more whole and real and diverse than the people I see at Target, or the Elementary School drop-off line, or sometimes sitting at the dinner table with me as my mind wanders to the fictional problems I have created for myself to solve.
I am writing a novel, and it’s different than anything I’ve ever started writing.
It’s not NaNoWriMo, and nobody is asking me to write this. I am writing it for myself, and writing something for myself and myself only is something I haven’t done in a long time. I love writing this blog, I loved writing my memoir, I love writing my freelance articles, but those aren’t for me. Those are because somebody else has asked me to do it, offered to pay me to do it, or otherwise persuaded me to do it. They are and have always been for a large audience. This is different. In many ways, it is more personal than my memoir, because while a memoir is an account of what has been, this is a reflection of who I must be, deep down. Am I compassionate? Am I loyal? Am I kind?
I am writing a novel, and based on the thousands of words already set to the page, no, I am not kind. I am not loyal or compassionate or ever good. I am a cruel creator of my cruel universe, and I am wrenching suffering from the good, sweet, loving people I have invented for my universe. I have recreated so many characters from my past, winnowed them down to the bones and built them up again into new people, different people, but people who already live in my heart as though they were born there.
It’s based on my failures, not in life, but in humanity, and it is inspired by the wonderful, kind, thoughtful, incredible people who reach out to me on Instagram and in my email and on my Facebook page, who reach out to me and say, “My brother was diagnosed with brain cancer last month, and his fiancée left him.” “My sister was diagnosed with glioblastoma four days ago, and I’m terrified I won’t be able to help her.” “My father was diagnosed with a brain tumor last week, and we’re afraid it might be glioblastoma, and I am hoping you can tell me what you did that kept your husband alive.”
Each time I receive a message like that, my impulse it to help. My impulse is to write back with advice and suggestions and references, to give as much of a guide as possible, to offer as much hope… even when there are no real answers. These emails often go back and forth, and often the writer begins to tell me the sad stories of everyone who abandoned their sick loved one. The spouses, fiancés, friends, even family, because not everyone has the strength to stand up and do the work of caring.
I am writing a novel because inside of me, there is a person like this. She is feisty and friendly but terrified of impermanence. She is terrified of change. She is so frightened of what could happen, of what could go wrong, that she is paralyzed. She is every impulse, every thought I’ve had through Mike’s treatment that has made me feel ashamed and weak. She is my mirror darkly. And because my head is so often filled with raging anger, or disgust, when these thoughts force their way into my life, I am evicting them. I have given them a name, a personality. When they rise I can capture them and say to myself, “Yes, this is what Greta thinks and feels,” and allow them to grow, to thrive or fail.
I am writing a novel because they have become a story inside me, my worst-case-scenario meets happily-ever-after, my exploration of trauma and healing, where none of the details are mine, but the experiences are immutable truth.
Of course, it’s a love story. It’s three love stories. Because everything I write, I write from love.
I am writing a novel. I’m about 10% through my first draft. It might not sound like much, but it feels huge and weighty, and real.
As always, I am following Hemmingway’s advice: “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
I am writing a novel. And I am bleeding.
Read more about writing about trauma here: When Your Sorrow is in the Spotlight
Read my most recent post here: Brain Diseases are Real Diseases
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