I mean it. I didn't want to write another novel except the last two I'm contracted for. It's an awful feeling to desire to be an artist when you are not. Once I had a talk with one of my editors, a real book guy, much like my agent. I told him I wanted to go through an MFA program so I could learned to write since I was still on the "Hooked On Phonics" stage and he said, "Maybe in a few years. Mair, you've got five underage children at home and you don't even have health insurance. You have to take care of your family." I was so discouraged. I thought, "I have to write enough books to take care of them until I can go learn how to write later." Crazy, huh?
Well, I can say I did learn a few things; I spoke in many voices in this one. Some better than others. I took risks with a structure that is not yet sound, but I can fortify it (I hope) on the rewrite. I wrote a love story for a stigamatist! I wasn't the first, but you just don't see a whole lot of that, so it's kinda different. I poured myself into it, so much so I forgot to fill in gaps for people who don't know me so well. I finished that draft feeling like I was wearing Saran Wrap, not that being transparent is anything new for me, but that doesn't mean I don't feel awfully exposed every single time I am. Here was an experience. For the first time in anything I wrote, the kindness of Jesus' mother upheld me as I wrote. She must like broken people. Jesus is very good to loan her to us.
Pray for us sinners, now and in the hour of our death.
Thank God for rewrites. That was my passion draft. I tone myself down later, and with a little help from my friends.
Still, I felt awfully alone. I felt afraid. And then I stung with profound disappointment when I'd finished knowing it is so delicate, and not ready for the world.
I punished myself. I cried, and yelled, and snapped, and hurt, and lashed out while cleaning my bookshelves as my family watched in horror. But really I was just scared. Afraid that I've written another mediocre book and some poor tree has to die for it. And everybody will see I'm far from being an artist, and it'll be over before I can even get good at it. Anger is a compelling cover for grief. When I was completely sick of myself I retired upstairs to watch a movie.
I chose Akeelah and the Bee. I bought it when it was first released on DVD, knowing already I'd love it, but I never watched it before. I burrowed myself under my bed covers and put the MacBook on my chest and oh, my. What a journey and a gift. Here's the quote than anchors the story:
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous,
talented and fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
I don't personally want to be fabulous. Like St. Teresa the Little Flower, I want to be small. But I want my work to be fabulous. I want it to be brilliant and gorgeous. And powerful.
I saw so much of myself in Akeelah; the 'hood stuff, the finding yourself suddenly (and unexpectedly) running with the big dogs, totally unprepared, and the wanting it just the same. I knew how scared she was, because I'm scared. I write scared every book. And I have often felt like I only had one coach, and maybe He wasn't so available. Yes, God feels absent many times, even though I don't let on so much. But it's true.
But I'm not alone. Like Akeela, I have 50, 000 coaches; people reading the worst of my drafts and whispering prayers for strength and endurance; publishing friends who trust me to somehow pull it all together and make it the best I can; an agent, who, when I said to him, I'm just not good at this," said, "On the other hand, you might be better than you give yourself credit for."
I have my family who misses me but leave me to do it. Lord, have mercy, an eight-year-old girl who needs me very much, but will content herself to crawl in bed with me if that's all she can get. I watched Akeelah work and work and work with broken tools and she became a champion. I told myself I can do this. I can be an artist. It will take everything, but I can't be afraid or think I'm not capable of working hard, because I am. God helps, even when I can't sense His nearness, suffused with darkness. And he sends 50,000 coaches to get me ready for the task. With so much L-O-V-E, love.
I learn each time I go through edits. I learn every time I try something new, whether I succeed with the effort or fail, at least I would have learned what I did wrong. I'll make a lil' piece of art one of these days.
And, in lieu of a MFA, there are always Writer's Digest books.
Just wanted to thank you, Coach.
Pax et Bonum,<-- the movie made me want to learn Latin, too. And it made me fall in love with words again. mair