Writing away … is it hopeless?

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I did not go outside my apartment today other than making a run to the pâtisserie for croissants for breakfast and a short stroll of the neighborhood on a very chilly evening after dinner. Otherwise, other than a short Yoga with Adriene session, I was struggling to write the opening scene of my hoped-for historical novel.

Image purportedly of Adela, Countess of Blois

I’ve wanted to write the story of Adela, Countess of Blois, Chartres and Meaux from the late 1080s until 1125 or so. I’ve read historical fiction all my life, and always have said I want to be a writer but the pressure from my family or my own inner critic or society — or fear or procrastination or all of the above — kept me on a different path. When I turned 50 (12 long years ago) I knew that the only regret I would have if I were to die then without having ever tried to write a book.

Finally, about six months ago, I decided to get serious, hired a book coach to help and then promptly have tried to postpone my calls with the book coach as often as possible because I haven’t actually taken the time to sit down and write, or plot, or whatever my assignment might be.

Well, today I spent hours struggling over the opening scene. I don’t know if I can do this…I really think I cannot, but I also do not want to give up without having put in the time actually writing.

I want the world to know Adela’s story. Plenty of books have been written about her father (William the Conqueror), mother (Queen Matilda), brothers (especially King Henry I), and son (King Stephen), but those books only mention one aspect of Adela, and it is not a flattering one. A brilliant historian wrote her doctoral thesis on Adela and that’s been a great source for the facts. Now I have to turn it into a story, with a character arc and obstacles and all the stuff. And it’s not coming easy to me. I have to turn off my attorney mind and my inner critic and reach deep down inside myself and be vulnerable. I am not good at vulnerable.

Tomorrow I will explore Paris again, but I hope to also explore my writing about Adela, a little every day, until I have a shitty first draft to edit, until I can finally say I didn’t give up without giving it my best effort. And maybe it will stay shitty because it’s not a book that’s meant for me to write, but at least I will have tried!

Stuck Inside

Howling at the Moon

Howling at the Moon

want to feel uninhibited enough to howl at the moonlight and now worry that folks within hearing distance will think I’ve lost my mind.  I know that if I could get in touch with that wild woman inside me, my writing would be more authentic, more interesting, more raw.  Knowing and doing are, of course, two very different things.  And what could seem simpler, on its face, than letting what’s inside you out?

I signed up for Judy Reeve’s Wild Women writing class and went with eager expectation and no small degree of fear to my first class with the hope that being in the class would allow the part of me that had built up so many walls over the years to relax, and let the “howling at the moon” part of me flow out.  But I couldn’t do it.  Judy light a candle, and we talked, and the mood was right … but the words coming out weren’t from the wild woman, they were just the same old staid expressions of the surface level and I could dig below.

The frightening part was thinking maybe there wasn’t any “wild” inside me to come out.  Maybe I’d never had it.  Maybe it had slowing starved to death.  So I never went back to class.  I had excuses — a busy schedule — but the truth is that I could have made it work.  But to sit there week after week and hear the other women so freely expressing themselves while I was constipated and seemingly unable to get in touch with that part of myself was too daunting a challenge, too depressing for words.

But I live to fight another day.  To fight to dig out under the surface layer and reach the juicy parts inside, to free myself to howl.