Monday, November 8, 2010

The Writing Life During Unsettled Times

“Every word on your blog is not a word in your book,” says Sherman Alexie (Writer’s Digest, Sept 2010, p. 36). That could be why I have ignored my blog for so long--those who are my Facebook friends know that I took an online creative writing class over the summer. Due in large part to the encouragement of my instructor, I honestly can say I have a work in progress--my book. Written in third person limited, which is really hard to stick with, the protagonist is a middle aged college professor at the turn of the twentieth century whose checkered past collides with his genteel and stable present. This character and those who move in his orbit have been in my mind for at least ten years and have been the subject of many a musing on long car trips. I decided to use some of the characters for projects in my class. The tales got such rave receptions that I was compelled to share the story of my protagonist and by default, the stories of those important to him as seen through his eyes. One character's story has gotten incredibly meaty and I may spin her off into her own book.

Some days, though, I don’t want to tell the story of my protagonist. I want to tell my own story, the writing of the novel of my life. In that work, I wish to answer questions such as where I am going to live? How will I get there, and when? My book is important, but its success is predicated on how the rest of my life and its distractions play out.

In my last post, I said when I assumed that Taciturn wanted to move as well, I was wrong. I took his ennui, his reluctance to get involved with life outside of our house as a sign he was no longer happy where we lived either. When he told me he did not want to live in Vermont, he mentioned that when he realized that I needed to move, he started weaning himself away from the things he enjoyed doing in the Black Hills so he would not miss them so much. He did not tell me what he was doing, and I missed the signs totally. Looking back, we either talked past each other about moving, assumed many things, or didn’t talk at all.

Now we are in the same situation we were in while in South Dakota, although now he is the one who needs to move. Since our SD house did not sell, he would like to go back. But, he had put it on the market to rent, and when it did not rent right away, assumed it would never rent and started making arrangements to move back into it. Imagine his surprise when someone did sign a year long lease! He was so certain it would not rent out that he did not take it off of the market.

Having someone move into the South Dakota house is a blessing in that it gives us time to think through and talk about what to do. He knows I refuse to live full time in South Dakota. We know many people who own two homes. We’ve spoken off and on for years about living in St. Louis, a city to which we both have deep individual ties as well as ties as a couple. That may be the answer to our dilemma--keep the rural South Dakota house and live there part time, and buy a small city house in St. Louis for the rest of the time.

If we do want to buy a city house in St. Louis, then we have to get the house we just purchased into shape to sell. Two painters have come out to estimate the job (though haven't gotten back with numbers), and I plan to call another. Also, real estate moves slowly here. In order to turn it over quickly, we will have to underprice it and just accept that we will take a very expensive bath.

With all of this stress on my mind, it is difficult enough to stay present in my own life, let alone live another person’s as I write. To go back to Sherman Alexie, if I had tried to write words in my book, I think I would not have written a single word today. Please keep us in your prayers and good thoughts as we work toward a decision that both of us can accept.


Leann said...

How exciting!! A book! I'm excited for you.....can you tell :-)

My thoughts and prayers will continue to be with you as you make your way through this dilemma.


Jan said...

Wow! Adventures in your future!

Diane said...

I'm so excited and jealous about your book!

I wish I had an idea for one...