Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Story in my Head

I started writing a novel in November. For NaNoWriMo. Then, I stopped. I stopped for a lot of reasons, but one of them was Stephen King.

Do you, my lovely blog-reading public, remember when Steve (which is what I call him when we have long talks in my head) was hit by a van? It was pretty horrifying. I spent days sitting on the edge of my seat, praying desperately for a man I've never met.

I could spend some time telling you how much I feel like I know Steve. How I am roughly the same age as his kids and I loved it best when books were dedicated to them. How I read Tabby's books just so I could understand what kind of woman it takes to keep up with him. How I listened to the Rock Bottom Remainders and always think of him when I see the Castle Rock logo. How I felt like he was talking TO ME every time he wrote the words "Constant Reader." It might make me look like a stalker and, oh crap, it does make me look like a stalker. Steve, don't go. I promise I've never even been to Maine. I went to Florida once or twice but it was before you lived there (I think) and I am not one of THOSE fans, I promise.

Anyway, I was worried, is my point here. I was worried about him. Partially because I felt like I knew him. Partially because I had read everything he had written and I really, really wanted him to finish The Dark Tower series.

And as he recovered, I celebrated. I read On Writing and I danced with joy. Really. I did. Then Dreamcatcher came out and I was so excited for a new novel I wet my pants. (Not really. It's an expression, ya'll.) And the, well, I hate to say I was disappointed, because, Steve, you know, but I was kind of, sort of, a little. Well, disappointed.

And here's the thing. I know that every word you write is colored by your experiences and nothing happens to a person as big as being hit by a freakin' van that doesn't seep into their work. I get that. I have known that since I started writing stories when I was nine.

So, it's not that the accident showed up, but that he was so bitter about it. And, I don't know. What did I expect, there to be pink puffy hearts and flowers growing all over the van accident? No, it's not what you live, it's how you live it and if there is something people are almost never happy about it's being hit by a van.

But, it seemed to color the story so heavily. It seemed to live and breathe in the story and for me at least, it took me right out of the world of the story. For those moments, I wasn't fearing aliens or watching in horror as my best friend became something else, I was reading as Stephen King, horror writer extraordinaire ranted about being hit by a van.

That's what stopped my story in November. You see, it's a dead baby story. A story about a woman living with loss, wrecked by her own self-loathing and misery, wallowing in the fields of death. It's a story about what I could have turned into. It's a story of all the women I have grieved with and then watched be overtaken by the grief. It's a story of coming to terms with life after losing the only thing that mattered.

And I am terrified to write it. I am terrified to relive the loss, for one thing. Although Ethan is my always-with-me baby, I get by a lot by not dwelling and this is going to require some good old fashioned dwelling.

But I am also scared because I am going to enter that territory. That territory where I write about how I been done been done wrong. And I don't want to be too bitter. I don't want to slide out of the story and into me. I have known, almost since October 19, 2003 that I would have to write this story. Not really this story, it's evolved over time, but some story about Ethan and me. I have to write about it. I have to put it on paper, because that, my friends, is what I do. Put stuff on paper.

But, how, I ask myself, can I do that? How can I walk back through that valley and come out on the other side without doing a little wallowing? A little feeling sorry for myself? If Stephen King, a much better writer than I, can't do it, then how can I?

I don't know. But what I do know is that I have to try. And maybe, it'll suck. Who knows. But since everything Steve has written since Dreamcatcher has been phenomenal, maybe it doesn't even matter.


Becca said...

Mom was a major Stephen King fan. I read Pet Sematary first when I was around 11 or 12. Mom had started it and put it down. I picked it up, started reading, and finished it during her break. I asked her why she had stopped reading it.

She had stopped reading as Gage began running toward the the road. She figured where it was going and her mind began racing--what if something happened to Jamie or me? Would she take us to the Pet Sematary? Would we come back normal? Could she take us to the cemetary at the top of the hill? Would she have to find some old cemetary off Turkeyfoot somewhere, maybe that little one toward Mt. Gilead near the tunnel under the train track?

She would not--could not--finish the book. AFAIK, she still hasn't. At the time I thought she was crazy and I didn't it.

I still think Mom's a little crazy. But I confess, I get it. As much as I love Stephen King, I don't know if I could read Pet Sematary again.

A round about way of getting here, but, I get it. I've wrestled with writing from what I know because going back to those experiences means going back to who I was at that time and I have no interest in going back to that person. I have too much to lose today if I go back to what I used to be. I sometimes wonder, but for now I see it as a trade off. I have what I have and I am who I am and the frustration and wonder is the painful price I pay to be in the present instead of in the past.

Jamie Roberts said...

i don't think it's a bad thing at all to "remember your roots" every experience shapes who you have become...jessi, you've become a beautiful woman. i've been through some very difficult times, and still go through them, but how i handle them makes me, well, me. and i don't think i'm all that bad ;) putting things on paper is great therapy. being able to go to 'that' place again and look at it objectively can make you grow as a person, and in this case, as a mom. i can only imagine what you must feel...but if you feel so strongly that you need to write your story..then write it. stand up and face the fear of the darkness so that you can help us learn to overcome. hope this has helped. i rarely comment, but i love reading your blog :)

Mrs. Allroro said...

Would it be possible to write it and not let people read it? And then maybe after a few years, you could revise it and make it more reader-friendly?

And then when you're old and famous you could publish the original version and make bank.

Tears In My Shotglass said...

I can't even imagine what it is like having lost a child. I don't want to imagine it either. In my opinion, I think you should just take your time. You are a strong woman and have shown it repeatedly. If you don't write it you will beat yourself up over it. I agree with Mrs. A, write it and keep it for yourself. Maybe after a while you will be able to go back to it.