To be honest, I actually have to give this one some thought. But perhaps one thing that does tend to stand out for me (when it deigns to peek out from the shadowy corner where it twiddles its thumbs like a fart in a trance) is the often-overlooked fact that I have completed writing projects for publication, even while the rest of my life had been in a state of upheaval.
Several years ago, I was desperately trying to make some sense of my life (like that has changed, but I digress) following an earnest attempt at making a long-distance relationship a solid thing by relocating and cohabiting with my intended; it was far easier for me to uproot than it would be for her. Alas, it turned out to be a tale of woe and a painful lesson. Anyway…I took a job with a mail-order pharmacy and moved in with my folks for a time while I nursed my wounds and mapped out my next move. I took care of my baby soul through meditation, playing and writing and listening to bittersweet music that buoyed me through the pain and confusion I was experiencing, and throwing my efforts into learning all the things Chinese. That last part, I am glad to say, largely did the trick. I had a tutor; Ming was patient and generous and funny. I began writing in Chinese, both in pin yin and han zi. I spent a lot of time in Chinese restaurants to hone my burgeoning language skills. I read books by contemporary Chinese writers like Ha Jin, Mo Yan, Anchee Min, and Gao Xing Jian; I read up on history and culture. And then I decided to write a novel.
November was fast approaching, and I needed a project with an end point. I was also chomping at the bit to get back to my adopted hometown of Austin. It turned out that National Novel Writing Month was just around the bend, and I thought I had a grand idea for a story that had been kicking around for a year, something I was calling Mirror Crack’d. And…off I went.
My chief protagonist was an expatriate dodging the cow demons, snake spirits, and turtles’ eggs of the Old Capitalist Roaders who were making his life miserable back in ‘murica, and were doing their best to ferret him out in Shanghai. He had a Chinese lady friend, a dui xiang who obliquely suggested that he “go west”. Somehow the story morphed into a chronicle of a recovering heroin addict in Anytown, Yoo Ess of Aay, who was having a bad run of luck with his job, with bill collectors, with women, with living in sobriety…and then the feces hit the flywheel when his mirror image actually began speaking to him, berating him for his lifestyle choices, and then taking the reins and getting him in all kinds of trouble. For a rough draft, it was coming along nicely in terms of daily word count and in actually being readable. About 21,000 words into the digital manuscript…I moved out of town, back to Austin. The decision had been pretty definite for a while, but somehow losing my job at the pharmacy and an invitation to stay with an old friend who had started taking classes at the big university happened to coincide…so I packed up what I had in my beat-up Nissan Stanza, settled in for a stay, and didn’t work on the book for about a week. I was trying to stay current with the story, using a printout of the work-in-progress and a spiral-bound notebook to bash out what I could the old-fashioned way. When I finally got my PC back online, I worked in a flurry. I had just started a new job, my friend and I were–well, we explored options, let’s just put it that way–and I was going to do my level best to complete Mirror Crack’d by November 30. I transcribed about 12.000 words into the digital manuscript and moved forward. And got stuck. And floundered. And ran out of steam. Bearing in mind that it was only a rough draft I needed and not a marketable, polished and tightened-up work of staggering genius, I wrapped things up (however haphazardly) by the deadline with a final word count of just over 50,000 words. Good enough to say, “I wrote a novel in three weeks.”
Not exactly my level best, come to think of it. I still keep wanting to revisit that manuscript and improve upon it (read:rewrite the whole damned thing). But I remember the day I was able to print out my certificate stating I had stayed the course, had persevered even through that big hiccup in the middle, and finished writing a novel in one month’s time. I was pretty pleased with myself, and I was happy to share the news. Not that it led to literary greatness; life has a way of realigning itself to provide ever more interesting and heartbreaking challenges to those who have a particular goal in mind, however long-term that goal is.
It is that time again. There are many more things that are straining against the shell I carry with me and chipping at the mountain in my way. It’s been obvious to many people that there is a gift I should be sharing with the world, whether to motivate them, entertain them, agitate them, educate them. Why haven’t I made more of an effort to create that reality? Constantly zigging when the smart money is on zagging and using the lame excuses that I am tired, I have no time, no energy, no ideas. That is utter bullshit. We all know it. And I feel good when I complete those projects, when people tell me they like what they’ve read…and when they tell me that’s what I should be doing instead of doing the things that take me further away from what brings satisfaction to my own life.
This blog represents my first few steps in recreating my reality. It’s not for everyone; it’s for myself that I’m doing this. And I think I should be proud of–most of all–for persevering through everything else to get to this point. Now, what am I gonna do about it?