I want to get back to writing my book. Let me qualify that: I need to get back to writing my book.
My book starts as a series of journal entries (both personal and travel) and letters in 1996 and ‘97, long before I know I will write a book.
In 2001, I start writing chapters, by hand. The chapters flesh out story snippets and descriptions of people and places. The chapters expound on inner turmoil, extreme loneliness and a budding thirst for a less-ordinary life.
By the end of 2001, I am typing these chapters into a computer, adding more details, more perspective and more poetry to my word count.
I print out what I consider the second draft and edit onto the pages. Like the cliché that I am, I carry dog-eared pages with me everywhere, reading and re-reading the story of me. My book, a travel biography, begins to take shape and I move chapters, fool around with format and finally settle on a 3-part tome.
Part One. Narrative. Documenting the end of life as I know it. My alone-ness. My fear of drowning. My knowledge that doing something, anything, is better than doing nothing. Not knowing what ‘something’ to do.
Part Two. Narrative. A journey in a wide circle. Defeat. Triumph. Forging relationships. Learning that I don’t know everything. Learning that I know a lot. Drinking in facts and places and more people.
Part Three. Episodic. The circles continue, concentric, overlapping, my life a Venn diagram. Hating myself. Loving myself. Losing myself to excess and pretended celebrity. Stillness. Silence. Sleep and a momentum that ultimately forces a new trajectory.
I occasionally dust off a printed copy. What draft is this? Eight? Eleven? I lose track.
“I am in love with this,” says a friend. “But it should be a novel. It should be in the third-person.” I disagree, and re-write chapter one for the fifty-millionth time. Each time I re-write it I love it more.
“It’s wonderful, Sweetie,” says my mother. “She has to say that,” I think. But she actually does love it.
I feed it in cruel increments to willing and select friends. I want critics, not sycophants to read it. Only that will make it better. I write in sporadic and manic phases. I accomplish much, then nothing for months, years.
In 2009, I sit in modest, yet well-decorated apartment in a foreign city, and I read chapter one. “This should be a novel, in the third-person,” I think and I smile. It has taken me years to get to this point. I tell my friend, herself a writer, a successful one. She is pleased.
I dig out the letters and journals from a decade before, all brought from my homeland for this very purpose, and I read. I remember a girl I once knew, one who loved passionately and had her hopes crippled. I think of her fondly as I might think of a distant relative I was once close to. She saddens and angers me, yet I know I will always be protective of her. She is, after all, me.
I return to the keyboard, and I start at the beginning, a very good place to start.
I write the story of a young woman called Sarah. She has a whole life, most of which I have yet to discover and some of which echoes my own life. I love her, as fiercely as I love the girl in the journals and hand-written lengthy letters collected by loving parents and returned years afterwards.
I feed it to a new friend in meaty chunks. She wants more.
It flows out of me, like a mother’s milk. Chapter one. Two. Three. Six. And then, nothing.
Months later I return to the pages I wrote and do not recognize the words. “Who wrote this?” I wonder and then remind myself that I did. These words are mine. And they are good.
Yes, I need to get back to my book.