I'm most recently a writer. In the six plus decades of my life, I've been a wife, mother, grandmother, Jill of all trades though mistress of but a few, and most of the time pretty content with my lot. As a much younger person, I believed I was called to write, but life and living distracted me for most of those decades. An unwilling transplant from the South, twenty years ago I unintentionally landed in the geographical center of the US. Writing came about in part due to the unwillingness, I expect. When caring for family, gardening, and renovating a century-old house failed to provide sufficient creative outlets, I turned to the one thing I always intended to do. Eight titles later, I'm grateful I found myself while Lost in the Plains!
Wednesday, January 7, 2015
Walking the Tracks--the Work in Progress
On those walks, as my grandfather stepped easily from tie to tie, I was determined to match his long stride, more often than not failing. To avoid the gravel in between ties, I tried walking the rails, balancing like a tightrope artist, or leaping across the gravel like a ballet dancer, even jumping two-footed as in a game of leap frog, but most of the time, my short legs failed to span the space and I suffered the bruising impact of the rocks. Beside me, my grandfather never discouraged me from trying, never told me I couldn't do it. He just walked beside me, allowing me to find my way.
As I write the next story in the Walnut Lodge series, I'm doing much the same thing, attempting to tell the story while avoiding its bruising emotional impact . It makes for a very tough walk.
If you've been here before, you know most of my writing is character driven. With this story I have two lovely characters to work with--Jeff Anders, former PK (preacher's kid) and journalist, now primary caregiver to a parent with dementia and working as the night auditor at Walnut Lodge, and Connie Mitchell Monroe, single mother, divorced from her Major League Baseball fallen star husband and struggling to build a new life for herself and her daughter. These details were outlined in Katie Lost and Found, the first of the Walnut Lodge stories. We know how Jeff and Connie's story ends, but what we don't know is how they reached that ending. Thus the plot of this story has a beginning and an end already in place. That should make my work easier, right? It does. But there are other issues, admittedly, my own, slowing my progress.
In the first book, we're told that Connie's marriage was a "fast lane to disaster." I knew what I wanted that to mean from the beginning. I had the scenario in mind before domestic abuse became the biggest story in major league sports last year. My personal experience with the subject is something I've known I would eventually incorporate in one of my stories. I've put it off because I suspected it might not be a walk in the park to live with this subject again, even in a fictional plot. My suspicions were correct. It isn't.
Each time I open the file for this story, I brace myself. Unlike the eagerness with which I normally write, I force myself to get down to work. Little by little, the words--which have been in my head for months--fall onto the page. I probably measure them more carefully than I normally would. They need to say so much without saying too much. They need to tell Connie's story and reveal Jeff's response. They don't tell my story, but they are certainly colored by my experience, even though the details are very different.
In writing Connie's story, while the fictional circumstances may be different, the feelings involved are the same. I can only write so much before I'm forced to step back, to separate from her pain. It would be easy to give up, to take a different approach, less costly for me and far more expeditious. But I know I won't. As difficult and time-consuming as it may be, this story needs to be told. I need to tell it.
As I remember, at the end of those long ago walks, my feet might have been sore, but I was glad I'd tagged along, maybe because of striving to if not quite reaching the goal, maybe because the companionship had been so rewarding. As with those walks, while writing this story, I have to accept that as I find my way, I'll feel bruised, sometimes even angry at the sharp memories that continue to inflict pain. I can't avoid them, anymore than I could leap to the next tie. If I am to complete this walk--this book--I have to keep my sights on the end. I'm not sure yet what the reward will be. Maybe finally crossing off that square, writing about domestic abuse, or maybe I'll learn that one reader found a message in the pages, something to take them a step further along their journey. I won't know until I hit "Publish," will I? Until then, it's one determined step--one word--at a time.