YES, I HAVE TO WRITE. But what’s that sound like to you? That I’m merely compelled? To write something, anything? Perhaps I have been. Fitfully, as in this blog. Or of late, writing novels, obsessively, sometimes in the chair above.
But for me that statement–I have to write–now carries a greater sense of urgency. Perhaps even emergency. I’ll try to explain.
I’d already been writing professionally for years when, in 2012, my mother died at the age of 82. It was for me the end of a long struggle. By that, I don’t only mean her struggle, against the loneliness and isolation she had claimed for herself (drawing it up around her like a soothing, suffocating blanket). Nor do I mean her battle with the emphysema that would, in fact, finally smother her. Rather what I’m referring to is the end of my own struggle, to somehow reclaim the Lost Years–that dark period, beginning when I turned eleven, when she walked out the door.
By the time we were reconciled, I was in my early twenties. And so, around the time I felt my own life about to truly begin, I thought I could see the promise of a fresh start with her as well. So I began, haltingly at first, to attempt the reclamation, as one might try to take back from an encroaching jungle the home they’d once lived in. And for the next forty years, I tried to find a way back in, eventually to conclude near the end that she was incapable of reopening that door.
And yet an even more sobering revelation came several days after she died, a few steps from her graveside, and just moments after I had said my final goodbye. In that revelation, and in the blink of an eye, everything changed for me as a writer.
I remember the very place. I could take you there now, the memory remains so vivid to me: that hillside outside Chardon, Ohio, near Lake Erie, that tiny spot on the ground where, on a January morning following a “lake-effect” snow storm–accompanied by a mere handful of mourners, all of us inching down the slippery, snow-covered slope, leaving behind the hole in the ground where minutes later they would lay her body–I was struck by a cold realization:
It was not just my mother’s death, but her entire life, that had been the tragedy.
Born a dark beauty with a lovely voice, that life began with a dream of becoming a singer, an artist, and ended as a cautionary tale. And in that moment, on that slippery hillside outside Chardon, as the artist and writer who had survived this tale and as heir to her DNA, I felt land on my shoulders the weight of her story, and the responsibility to share it with anyone I could get to listen. It hit me so hard it almost brought me to my knees.
And so, I had to write.
But what about that urgency I mentioned? Well, as the expression goes, I’m no spring chicken. The difficult truth is that the clock is ticking, and if I don’t get this story down, it may never get told.
Also, the more I write and the deeper I go, the more there is to tell. What started out about a year after her death as the manuscript for one novel has now grown to three. Don’t even get me started about the other stories still waiting in the wings. For instance the prequel, possibly a romance, about the patriarch, a musician and artist whose chromosomes have infected members of my family right down to my own children. The sins of the fathers, so to speak.
But most of all, my sense of urgency comes from the fact that what I’m writing is not in fact some downer, cautionary tale but actually a story of promise–what I hope will be encouragement for every person who has ever felt even the slightest, tingling awareness of that very human characteristic we call creativity, one I believe exists, if for now only in a dormant state, inside each of us, you included.
If you’ve been following me here or on my Facebook Page, you know that from time to time I’ve posted first draft chapters that show my progress, or short stories about the characters, or other behind-the-scenes looks at where this is all leading. Now I’m realizing these tiny nuggets do two almost useless things: they tease you with bits and pieces from a story you may wonder will ever be completed, and they distract me from the very act of writing that story.
For that reason, I now plan to limit my communications to occasional updates on my progress, and only to those on my email list. I hope you’ll join by clicking on the Subscribe button at the top right of every page, or by completing the form at the bottom of any post.
The incentive for joining will not only be progress reports but also free downloads of the novels when completed, along with other books from the worlds in which the stories take place. In the works for now those include a “photo album” of the people and places featured in Book 2 of the series, fictional, supposed diaries and writings by characters from Book 3, and a separate collection of short stories about the characters from all the books.
Simply join my email list and you can receive all of those, when published, free. (What’s in it for me is the possibility that you might review books from the series on Amazon, such reviews being invaluable in aiding discoverability by other, potential readers.)
As the release date for these books draws near, I may also resume posting on the Facebook page, but at his point in time the story requires my full attention. Everything else must wait.
Like I already said, I have to write.
To begin reading the series of posts that comprise the true life story behind The Butterfly Myths, click here. To get on the list for free downloads of the Butterfly Myths series, planned for release in 2017, complete the email form below.
The leather chair in which I sometimes write. I wrote there today.