One of my characters writes to “unravel the twistedness” in her, and “to turn on the light in a dark room.” I do the same, and I always have. I’ve got twenty years’ worth of journals sitting in a plastic storage box behind me. If I laid them out end to end they would cover the floor of this room and spread out into the hallway, like a steady carpet. If I don’t write, I start to lose my grip on reality.
Words are the safety line between me and the world, they anchor me. As I write, I remind myself who I am, what I believe, and how I want to live. These three things are the pulsing life at our core, but we can overlook them without realising it, and let the incidentals crowd them out. The words I write here might seem raw at times but they always considered, and always written on reflection. The raw emotion goes into my journals, which have no audience. The words here come afterwards, they are the thoughtful response, if there is one to be made. I may seem like I’m thinking out loud here, but in reality I am thinking out loud things I’ve already thought, and there is a difference.
It’s an understatement to say that this year has been complicated, and the complications continue, but every time I sit down to look that novel, now at final draft stage, they fade into the background. The novel reminds me who I am, what I believe, and how I want to live. It answers all three of those essential questions with an emphatic and resounding “yes.” If it does nothing more than that, then it has done more than enough. If others like it too then that will be a bonus.
It’s a tight story, there’s barely any padding in it, and one of my last tasks is to flesh out a couple of key ideas. It’s like sitting down to work on a newly made garment and letting out a few seams so that it’s more roomy. The fabric feels good as I work at it with my fingers, and I like the way the colours change when I hold it up to the light. There seems to be something magical about what I’m doing, for wherever I need to open the garment up, to let out a hem, or loosen a dart, I find just the amount of fabric I need hidden behind the seam. I let it out, re-do the seam, and – voila! – it looks as if it had been that way from the start.
Here’s a newly “let out” piece you might like, about the same character I referred to at the beginning of the post:
She was born on an island in the Pacific Ocean at four o’clock in the afternoon. It was a Tuesday in the middle of the year, in the middle of a tumultuous decade, when a war in the jungle was lost to the north, and a conservative dictator died in a land-locked capital. She was born while Elton John sang ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’, and The Eagles’ song ‘The Best of my Love’ flew to the top of the charts. She was a solid baby with rolls at her wrists, and the weight of her pulled at her mother’s shoulders. Her mother was her constant attendant, faithfully offering her breast at the child’s slightest whimper.
Her name was Angel and she was the fruit of that new freedom they called Love. She wore corduroy tunics over bell bottom trousers, and watched blonde-haired girls singing in the Micky Mouse Club on Thursdays after school. On Saturday afternoons her mother sent her to her room for a rest, and she lay as still as she could on her bed, while the muted noise of the neighbour’s television crept in through the open window, and the low afternoon light filtered through the thick stand of bamboo outside. She dreamed up secret rendezvous with the next door neighbours, and when she was finally let out, escaped to the garden. There she made an entire universe out of one tree. Its giant exposed roots creating for her an almost infinite series of worlds, all separate and contained.