23 January 2009

Dearest, Darling Novel

I've been thinking about this post for weeks but haven't put it up yet, at least in part because The Sinus Infection That Doesn't Die seems to have taken up residence in my head and I would swear that it seeps into my brain. Oozes, maybe.

A few...days? weeks?...ago, LL Barkat posted this, where she features a letter to her being-born book. It fed her mind and her writing and allowed her to come back to it with different eyes. Since then, I've written several letters to my first-drafted novel, and this is a conglomeration of all of them. I'd hoped to find, in the writing of these letters, what wasn't working about the book, because my intuition told me something had broken and I didn't know what. I did figure out the problem, and I'd like to think the letters contributed at least a bit.

Dearest Novel,

I love you. I feel like I need to say that straight out, so I don't forget it in the wandering, confused place I feel like we've entered in the last several days. Because it is confusing to know that I love you and also that something isn't working. I feel like I've almost abandoned you, like the temptation is to leave behind what doesn't work and find something that does. But the truth is, no matter where I go from here, something will always be unfinished if I let you languish in this state. I'll look at you out of the corner of my eye, pretending not to see but really seeing nothing else, and I'll always wonder what might have been.

I don't like wondering what might have been. This dislike seems to have served me well thus far, having played a key role in netting me, at the very least, a husband. So I trust it again, and plug away at looking you square in the face and finding a shape that fits both what you've become and what I want to say, through you, to the world. You will be finished, someday, even if it's only so I can point to you and say, "That? That was my first novel," and beam with pride.

So I'll sit with you, if that's what it takes, though I don't promise a terribly high tolerance for banging my head on the wall. I'll sit with you and try to figure out how to put the pieces together a different way. I'll walk around and around you, looking at all the angles until I find one that works. And then I'll rebuild, if I have to, or at least rearrange, until the pieces fall together in a different way.

This process feels like one big game of pickup sticks, that most frustrating and odious of games, or maybe Jenga, which was always a lot more fun. Either way, I want to pull from you what is unnecessary, what doesn't work, and leave in place your core, your weight-bearing walls. Of those, I'll tear down what I have to, though I'd rather not bring the whole house down on my head.

Off we go, then, on this journey into...well, into wherever we're going. I suppose you're going to tell me that it wouldn't be nearly as much fun if I knew where we'd end up and, begrudgingly, I'll agree. So let's go, already. Let us away!



heather said...

This line resonated with me: "I don't like wondering what might have been."
I know my novel will never be what I want it to be, but I have to let go of my expectations.
I think it would be easier for me to write a letter to my main character--no, she's not a character. She's a friend. I find when I've been away from writing, she stays with me, flitting about, causing trouble. When I sit down to write, it's like visiting a friend who's moved away. It all comes back so quickly.

sojourner said...

perhaps that long awated letter will release a cretive plug for you - let us up this is true - so away with you!

L.L. Barkat said...

I really liked the first line...

I love you. I feel like I need to say that straight out....

It is both the hope and the sticking point of our great works. Because we love we hesitate to change things; because we love we must.

Joelle said...

Sarah, bless you for keeping the vow even if the spouse is senile, for walking the last stretch even if you don't win. It sounds like it's something your soul demands. Last year, my first of teaching, was horrid. Horrid is putting it mildly. I desperately wanted that to be the end, to not return. But I knew that if I didn't give it one more try I would always wonder "what might have been." So I am glad I came back for another year. It clarified so much, mostly the "what nots." This is not me. This is not where I flow. This is not a life-giving environment. Now I think I can look back with satisfaction and say, "I did it."

The Poet's Pen said...

You are a brave soul Sarah. For some strange reason of which I can't piece together in my mind, (at least not in a way that makes sense) this blog made me think of Hinds Feet on High Places.

Do you know that book?

Anyway, I kept hearing the voice of much afraid as she struggled through so many stages of surrendering herself (well, her dreams). Joy came in the morning though when her name was finally changed to Grace and Glory.

Sarah, the Warrior Princess and a set of Wings. Grace to you friend.

Sarah said...

Heather--huh...that might be cool, too. Though my main character is more of an alter-ego, or a "might have been me."

Sojourner--I'm off, I'm off! ;)

LL--If I didn't love it, I don't think it'd be worth working on...if I didn't think it had that lovely spark.

Joelle--yuck...that sounds really hard. But I'm glad you went back, just to be sure. So...what is you (besides gorgeous poetry and putting ideas together in new ways)?

Tammy--I've read the book once, a while ago. I don't remember it much, but I'm honored that my journey reminds you of hers ;)