Sunday, February 8, 2015

How I Write About a Parent’s Love for a Child When I Don’t Have Children and Don’t Want To Be a Mother

Excerpt from one of my untitled, unpublished short stories:
If you asked her, Andy would say Little Derek was an accident—a blessing, but an accident nonetheless.  She would say that she felt so hot and cold about life that she didn’t know whether she was coming or going.  One minute she fought to find a place as a civilian, a wife and a daughter, the next minute she wanted to sleep until there were no more tomorrows.  She would say that the only time her life made sense was when she was with Derek, that when she spent the weekend with him in Longview, Texas, she wasn’t thinking straight.  That she didn’t know she was ovulating and didn’t know why she was so horny she could have humped a pole.  She would say she didn’t know why she had sex with Kenneth the night after she returned home and that the thought of Derek’s seed in her womb was the farthest thing from her mind.  But she would be straight up lying.  Andy planned Little Derek as sure as she willed her father to live the day she found him unconscious in the garage.

Picture the thing you love most in the world—the thing that makes you feel loved, accepted and complete; the thing in which you can lose yourself; the thing without which you cannot imagine living.  If you do not have children, you probably pictured a person, more specifically a lover, a life partner or a spouse.  It is probably not hard to imagine having a child with this person.  Whether this child is adopted or brought into the world biologically is irrelevant for this exercise.  What matters here is your love and commitment for this child.  That love and commitment will be or is, to some degree, an act of transference.  Via the child, the love you feel for your significant other grows exponentially.  As the child grows, your bond with him/her will grow.  Then that love of transference will take on a new dimension whereby you love the child both as a part of you and your significant other and as an individual.
When I write fiction involving a parent and a child, I picture the thing I love most in the world: books.  All books tell a story, even textbooks and instructional manuals.  I respect every type of book that exists.  I respect what they can inspire, which is change and action.  Words are the most beautiful, powerful things in the world to me.  I can lose myself in them.  When I write, I feel loved, accepted and complete even though few people ever read my work.  I cannot live without writing.  I would not cease to breathe if I ceased to write, but I would go insane, and I would probably…no, I am certain I would kill myself. 
I went through a two-year period of writer’s block.  For me, it was an unconscious closing off of my creativity.  Sure, I wrote.  I wrote shopping lists, checks, birthday and thank-you cards, reports for work, etc.  I even journaled, but I did not write creatively, so all that creative energy sat bottled up inside me like combustible energy.  I felt castrated and worthless at first.  Then I started fantasizing about rear-ending the faceless person who cut me off on the highway.  Since my parents raised me to be a kind, loving person, I couldn’t allow such deviant thoughts to persist, so I shifted to imagining my car spinning out of control, flying off the highway and bursting into flames after crashing into an abandoned building.  I have never been more suicidal and destructive as I was when I had writer’s block.  I felt like I was suffocating and, in a sense, I was.  I was dying a slow mental, emotional and spiritual death.
During that period of writer’s block, I journaled about how much I love writing, how much I missed it and how much I needed it.  I pined for it the way normal people pine for a lover.  I begged him to come back to me.  I swore that I was not angry that he had abandoned me.  I promised I would do whatever he wanted.  I promised not to put demands or restraints on him if he would just give me a book.  While I waited for him, I slept with a book tucked beneath my pillow each night.  I carried one in my purse just in case I found myself waiting in the doctor’s office or in a long line at the grocery store.  I listened to audio books in my car.  I was never without one of my adopted babies.  They were constant reminders of my love and commitment to words.     
But let’s be real.  Who the hell is gonna read a book about somebody loving books?  Maybe .2% of the population.  Wanting to write books is only part of the equation; wanting people to read your books is the another part.  Every path in life is an effort toward deeper self-understanding whether we realize it or not.  One cannot understand oneself without witnesses.  There must be an exchange, a transference of experience and becoming.    
Whenever I write the words: child, baby, daughter, son (or the child-character’s name), I am really thinking book.  That’s how I conjure the emotionality.  That’s how I make the reader believe I know anything at all about what a parent feels for a child. 

Saturday, February 7, 2015

For My Lover...

I was melancholy yesterday.  But perhaps I am simply melancholy by nature.  I was thinking about my unfinished manuscript and how I haven’t devoted much time to it since last summer when I was a professor and I had three months off with pay.  There’s a common misconception that teachers have it easy because they get summers off, but teaching (especially when you’re a conscientious teacher who pushes your students) can be incredibly draining.  I spent the first three weeks of my summer vacation recuperating from two semesters of 16-20 hour work days.  Yep! That was my average schedule.  Every once in a while, I had two days where I only had to grade for seven hours (i.e., one classs essays), but from Monday to Thursday, I worked 16-20 hours a day.  Needless to say, I didn’t have any writing time during the fall and spring semesters. During Thanksgiving break, winter break and spring break, I was always grading. This was one of the main factors in my decision to quit my job as a professor.

One of my favorite memories of being a professor is this: I was sitting in my office one Saturday afternoon trying to decide which poems I would assign to my creative writing class.  I chose two: Audre Lorde’s “Woman” and Pablo Neruda’s “The Hurt.”

These lines seized my heart:
1)      …your night comes down upon me/like a nurturing rain (Lorde); and
2)      I have hurt you, my dear/I have torn your soul (Neruda).

These lines confirmed what I have known for a long time.  Writing is my lover.  When I open myself to him, he is nurturing.  He is attentive and selflessly giving.  When I close myself to him, when I don’t give him the attention he requires, he gnaws at me and tears my soul apart.

So I give him whatever he wants, whatever he needs.  I don’t care what people say.  I don’t care if they think I’m crazy for leaving a secure job where I was respected.  I ignore the judging look on their faces when they ask if I want children and I say, No, I want books.  I dont give a shit if people think I need to “settle down” and “stop dreaming about being a writer.”  I need my lover, and I will do whatever it takes to keep him.