When Sam?s having a hard time and being a total baby about the whole thing, I feel so much frustration and rage and self-doubt and worry that it?s like a mini-breakdown. I feel like my mind becomes a lake full of ugly fish and big clumps of algae and coral, of feelings and unhappy memories and rehearsals for future difficulties and failures. I paddle around in it like some crazy old dog, and then I remember that there?s a float in the middle of the lake and I can swim out to it and lie down in the sun. That float is about being loved, by my friends and by God and even sort of by me. And so I lie there and get warm and dry off, and I guess I get bored or else it is human nature because after a while I jump back into the lake, into all that crap. I guess the solution is just to keep trying to get back to the float. This morning Sam woke at 4:00, so
You are going to love some of your characters, because they are you or some facet of you, and you are going to hate some of your characters for the same reason. But no matter what, you are probably going to have to let bad things happen to some of the characters you love or you won't have much of a story. Bad things happen to good characters, because our actions have consequences, and we do not all behave perfectly all the time.
There?s freedom in hitting bottom, in seeing that you won?t be able to save or rescue your daughter, her spouse, his parents, or your career, relief in admitting you?ve reached the place of great unknowing. This is where restoration can begin, because when you?re still in the state of trying to fix the unfixable, everything bad is engaged: the chatter of your mind, the tension of your physiology, all the trunks and wheel-ons you carry from the past. It?s exhausting, crazy-making.
Toni Morrison said, The function of freedom is to free someone else, and if you are no longer wracked or in bondage to a person or a way of life, tell your story. Risk freeing someone else. Not everyone will be glad that you did. Members of your family and other critics may wish you had kept your secrets. Oh, well, what are you going to do?
Write straight into the emotional center of things. Write toward vulnerability. Don?t worry about appearing sentimental. Worry about being unavailable; worry about being absent or fraudulent. Risk being unliked. Tell the truth as you understand it. If you?re a writer, you have a moral obligation to do this. And it is a revolutionary act - truth is always subversive.
When what we see catches us off guard, and when we write it as realistically and openly as possible, it offers hope. You look around and say, Wow, there's that same mockingbird; there's that woman in the red hat again. The woman in the red hat is about hope because she's in it up to her neck, too, yet every day she puts on that crazy red hat and walks to town.
So why today is it absolutely all I can do to extend mercy to myself for wanting to nip an annoying relative?s heel like a river rat? Forget extending mercy to this relative, who has so messed with me and my son ? she doesn?t even know she needs my mercy. She thinks she is fierce and superior, while I believe she secretly ate her first child. Horribly, she is perfectly fine. I?m the one who needs mercy ? my mercy. The need for this, for my own motley mercy, underpinned most of my lifelong agitation, my separation from life itself.
Trappings and charm wear off, I?ve learned. The book of welcome says, Let people see you. They see that your upper arms are beautiful, soft and clean and warm, and then they will see this about their own, some of the time. It?s called having friends, choosing each other, getting found, being fished out of the rubble. It blows you away, how this wonderful event happened?me in your life, you in mine. Two parts fit together. This hadn?t occurred all that often, but now that it does, it?s the wildest experience. It could almost make a believer out of you. Of course, life will randomly go to hell every so often, too. Cold winds arrive and prick you; the rain falls down your neck; darkness comes. But now there are two of you. Holy Moly.
What saved me was that I found gentle, loyal and hilarious companions, which is at the heart of meaning: maybe we don?t find a lot of answers to life?s tougher questions, but if we find a few true friends, that?s even better. They help you see who you truly are, which is not always the loveliest possible version of yourself, but then comes the greatest miracle of all?they still love you. They keep you company as perhaps you become less of a whiny baby, if you accept their help.
Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way. You don?t have to see where you?re going, you don?t have to see your destination or everything you will pass along the way. You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you. This is right up there with the best advice about writing, or life, I have ever heard.
You are lucky to be one of those people who wishes to build sand castles with words, who is willing to create a place where your imagination can wander. We build this place with the sand of memories; these castles are our memories and inventiveness made tangible. So part of us believes that when the tide starts coming in, we won't really have lost anything, because actually only a symbol of it was there in the sand. Another part of us thinks we'll figure out a way to divert the ocean. This is what separates artists from ordinary people: the belief, deep in our hearts, that if we build our castles well enough, somehow the ocean won't wash them away. I think this is a wonderful kind of person to be.
You can't find your true voice and peer behind the door and report honestly and clearly to us if your parents are reading over your shoulder. They are probably the ones who told you not to open that door in the first place. You can tell if you they're there because a small voice will say, 'Oh, whoops, don't say that, that's a secret,' or 'That's a bad work,' or 'Don't tell anyone you jack off. They'll all start doing it.' So you have to breathe or pray or do therapy to send them away. Write as if your parents are dead.
You will lose someone you can?t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn?t seal back up. And you come through. It?s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly?that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.