OPINION

Writer's Notebook: Remembering Gratitude

July 01, 2006
Richard Marcus

Those of you who have been following along since the beginning have suffered with me (or suffered me depending on your opinion) the ups and downs taking a novel from the germ of an idea through to a completed manuscript. What was initially supposed to have been a journal of my experiences competing in the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) evolved into something larger then I expected it to be as it has continued on long past the original competition ending date of November 30th 2005.

Originally supposed to have been a running commentary on the challenges of churning out thousands of words a day and the steps I took to overcome things like writer's block, fatigue, continuity lapses, and tedium the series has turned into an ongoing exposition on the struggles of writing a first novel. On some occasions I have waxed philosophical (or navel gazed; again depending on your point of view) but for the most part I've stuck with descriptions of process, revelations I've had about myself as a writer, and reflections on the business of writing.

I've written about my anxieties, my insecurities and all the other emotional baggage that goes along with any creative process. When I look back on what I've talked about to this point I wonder if I've made it sound like writing is something I do in spite of all the agony if puts me through and that I get no pleasure from the experience.

I was talking on the phone yesterday with one of my colleges from my early days in theatre. We had worked together for five years, he as Artistic Director, and me in various administrative, artistic and managerial capacities with a small company in Toronto. That time was my equivalent of an apprenticeship where I learned the ins and outs of being a professional artist.

Although we both live in the same part of the world we don't get much of an opportunity to talk; he's been teaching at a local college, starting up a freelance graphic design and consulting business, and has started a family late in life. During the school year any free time he manages to squeeze out of his schedule he spends with his family, so we only ever have opportunities to talk during the summer months.

It was while we were catching each other up on the what's been happening with our lives in the eight months or so it has been since we last talked, and I was telling him about the novel and my plans for a second book that I had a realization. This has been a great year for me in so many ways.

In spite of the fact that my health sucks, and I live a precarious life financially due to being on a fixed income, the positives have far out weighed the negatives. I have spent the last nine months, and continue to do so, immersed in doing what I've wanted to do for years, writing and finishing a novel. Everything else pales in comparison beside that.

But it's even more than just that process that's been and continues to be important. For the first time in nearly fourteen years I've been able to focus all my energies on working creatively. For me this has been like coming home to where I belong, where I'm happiest.

How often are any of us given the opportunity to do what makes us the happiest for any length of time, let alone permanently? Not very often would probably be a safe bet. Yet for the past year or so I have, and during this whole series have I ever said anything to that effect?

It's a case of not seeing the book for the words - or forest for the trees if you want to be picky - I've been so busy analysing, poking and prodding, and just generally tearing the shit out of the whole process that I've missed the point. After I had told my friend on the phone the stuff that I had done, my prospects for it, and what my wife has been doing over the past while, (she's had a gallery show of her art, and is about to release her first CD) I paused for a beat and it hit me like a flash. This has been a really good year.

We humans, this one especially, seem to lack the ability to step back and see the overall picture which might, heaven forbid, accentuate the positive aspects of our life. Somehow or other we can be living out our dreams, and still find reasons to complain and pick it apart so all we think about is how torturous everything is..

There is nothing wrong with analysing the process of writing a novel, letting other people understand some of the pitfalls and difficulties that exist, but to not mention how amazing it is to have the opportunity to be creative is negligence bordering on disrespect. It's like being given a gift and instead of saying how wonderful it is, you point out all the little imperfections to the point of sounding ungrateful.

Talk about playing with fire. I write because I feel compelled to do so. Can you imagine what would happen if the compulsion still existed but the opportunity or the ability to do so was taken away? It's my worst fear that a day will come when I'm no longer able to write because of my health, yet I'm cavalier enough about my current opportunity to not even appear grateful.

Sheesh, I'm amazed I haven't been struck dead with a lightening bolt yet. I guess sometimes the Gods and Goddesses can be understanding enough to give us some slack, or they're waiting for a more opportune moment. I'm hoping it's the former of course, but have taken steps to ensure it involving a... well maybe this is not the proper venue to go into such details so lets just say sacrifices have to be made in the name of art.

Seriously though, as I continue on with this series while working on volume two of The Paths Life Takes I will do my best to remember that in spite of whatever so called "trauma" I'm experiencing at the moment, I'm doing what I want. What can be better than that?

Richard Marcus is a long - haired Canadian iconoclast who writes reviews and opines on the world as he sees it at Leap In The Dark and Blogcritics
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