If I could be Shakespeare, I would write a tell-all autobiography about who I really was and how I created the voluminous work I did. Inspired by love? By greed? By my own perfectionist heart? Did I work alone? Did I steal images like critic's accolades? I would "wear the brave state out of memory" (Sonnet XV), and reveal all.
If I could be Louise Erdrich, I would write the sequel to A Blue Jay's Dance about life with older children. With the lyrical symmetry of the former, I would bust beyond the frame of baby's first year into the unsteady currents of mothering adolescents and adults--even after losing a partner, as Erdrich did. How do the letters still strike the page after that sorrow? I would explain it in my gilded, intense way...as only I could.
If I could be Tom Spanbauer, I'd give you the moon and the man who fell in love with it by offering a book about my writing life. How I wrote, "When the sun was full up, the fog got to be a petticoat curtain over the window of things" (page 187). This book would be my offering to all of the writers out there who couldn't make it to my "Dangerous Writing" workshops like Chuck Palahniuk, Jennifer Lauck, or countless others have.
If I could be Anne Patchett, I would write a book about combining children and creativity. I'd feed you my day--my schedule--how I bridged the two sides of the great divide between motherhood and solitude. This book so many need to read, and the power I brought to tell of my friendship with Lucy Grealy in Truth and Beauty, I would channel here...My pages would pierce a swollen mother's heart like an arrow.
More? If I could be Natalie Goldberg, I would write another novel--even though Banana Rose was a killer to create. With my current experience, my maturing perspective, and my spirit of adventure--I could take you back into Nell's life. What happened after Nell called Gauguin the night of his wedding and said, "Congratulations. I had a dream, and in my dream you were perfect for each other"? I would take you into the next chapter and let Nell wield her peculiar brand of character magnetism.
If I could be William Carlos Williams, I would evaporate my perfect terra cotta container and spill words into a novel. Faulkner? I'd slice sentences and forge my loose, wandering lines into poetry form--just to prove I could. If I could be Joy Harjo or Toni Morrison, I would write an intimate memoir about the intersection of myself and society...how a writer can hold her personal roots and speak universal truths at the same time--I'd craft a book of magic.
I am drowning in my own writing now--plagued at night when I should be sleeping by filmy gauze brainchildren perched on the edge of my bed, saying,
"Write me next."
"No--she promised I'd be before either of you two."
Phantom sibling rivalries while I rub my eyes and tell them,
"Quiet now--I'm still working on my other things. You all will get your turn."
I don't always believe myself either and when they slip away, bone-white and frail--I always want to call them back--afraid maybe once these ideas go, they'll be gone.
But, I have to fill in the empty spaces of the novel I'm finishing now. I have to do it because an editor is waiting and she believes in my smudged ink pages so much more than even I do. I have to do it because my family has shielded me--a safe harbor in a creative hurricane--and I want them to read right through me by loving my characters who were no longer mine to control the instant I breathed them out of the tip of my pen. I have to finish because I promised myself I would...I have to finish because of the invisible readers whose eyes I want to borrow for just a little while with my story of love, loss, and the secrets we tell ourselves to get by. In the end, like writers everywhere, sometimes--I bleed my words for the audience alone. This book is a conversation I want to have with you.
Sunday Scribblings: "The books I would write..."