I’ve reread my novel after being away from it for well over a year.
I did so with some trepidation. Much earlier in the writing process, after I had completed and revised the first draft, I put it away for several months. Then read it with a fresh and very critical eye. The result was terrifying: I hated it.
Eventually I came to realize that if you approach any piece of writing with too critical an eye, from a disdaining or resisting distance, you fail to grasp the thing that connects reader/writer. There must be, at the very least, a willingness to allow the story to lead you forward.
I was pleased that my reading of the novel this time did grab hold and keep me reading, keep me involved. I’m going over it again for a final edit but finding little that wants or needs work. The place I’m spending the most time now are the those crucial opening pages, and these too I now feel are ready to go.
I plan to write more about this novel on these pages in the coming months. For I find that I enjoy writing about writing, as so many writers do. And the topics the novel touches upon and themes it explores are important to me, painful as they sometimes are: addiction, homelessness, poverty, life on the street, father-son-mother-daughter relationships, the inability of ever truly knowing anyone, loss and grief, art as self-discovery and redemption, love and romance, spiritual transformation.
In some ways, all I care about, all I am, why I write, why I care, are contained in these pages.
Recently I came across an essay on writing that captures so clearly why I write, and perhaps, why I read. The passages excerpted below reflect my own writing experience.
Writing is speaking to yourself, but letting other people overhear the conversation.
The people who are compelled to write down what they feel are the ones who feel it hardest. They make up truths where they didn’t exist before. They put to words what would otherwise go muddled in their minds. Every single writer who can be honest can stand and ratify the fact that wedged between their words, laid subconsciously before them, were great loves and greater losses and deeper insecurities and projected fears. Nothing gets written without the intrinsic motivation to make something confusing and painful clear and beautiful.
I recently saw a quote that went like this: “we’re all just walking each other home.” And sometimes our maps and hands are offered in words. Sometimes we are lighthouses and sometimes we are lost sailors. Writers know you are best crafted out of being both.
And ultimately, the thing about writing is that it forces you to surrender yourself to uncertainty and vulnerability, which, if you ask me, is the most important task to master. My favorite writer . . . Cheryl Strayed once said something along those lines: that the place of unknowing is where the real work gets done — the vulnerable, uncertain place.
Because the best things are written out of the dark parts of us. Because things are always scary when they matter. Because things are inherently neutral and we assign value to them, and looking deeply into the words that touch us may be the greatest way — or the only way — of understanding those parts of us.
“To make something confusing and painful clear and beautiful.”
To help “walk each other home.”
That’s why I wrote this novel.