Writing Our Own Tickets To Ride

I’ve been on a journey with a novel. My novel. A two-year journey post the eight years it took to actually write The Angry Woman Suite, which I incorporated into the larger journey of a little thing called Life; in my case, a brilliant husband, a blended family, a busy work schedule, three much-loved needy dogs (aren’t all dogs needy?), my mother’s terrible last illness, and my parents’ passings. And then too soon after my mother, my too-young sister was unspeakably altered by a shocking stroke, exchanging independence—a good life basically—for residence within a nasty, lonely maelström of grief and hysteria. Time passed—again, too little of it—and then there were just two dogs, and then, sadly, a brain-injured husband living in a world of his own: my own once-brilliant husband.

Now there’s only one dog: a horribly abused rescuee called Baby Rae, who’s shown me that most anything can be survived, and with grace. And, oh, The Angry Woman Suite, the novel that helped get me through this segment of Life survives also, along with its own story, and of course it’s the story I never saw coming—the biggest and sometimes best stories are the ones we don’t see coming. It’s the one I really want to share, about writing fiction and queries; about agents and publishing, and starting over again and again and again, because that’s what writers actually do best: rewrite. John Irving, who wrote one of my favorite novels of all time, A Prayer for Owen Meany, claims he spends maybe two-thirds of his writing life rewriting, and that he doesn’t believe he has a talent that’s special so much as he has “a special kind of stamina,” which allows for all that starting over again and again.

And about those tickets . . .

Wow, life. It’s a trip, as is writing fiction. They’re parallel, up and down rocky coastlines of certainty and uncertainty, joy and sadness. Crazy, enervating, amazing trips requiring special kinds of stamina.

I just want to know how I got these particular tickets to ride. Did I get in the wrong lines? On the wrong buses? I’m always doing that. It’s amazing I ever even finished school; I kept going to the wrong classrooms. That is not a joke. I am that direction-challenged. It’s Mapquest that finally provided me with semblances of perspective and equilibrium, not the proverbial teacher, priest or rabbi, family next door, or broken heart—if not for a GPS and MQ, who knows what gutter I could’ve called mine? So it’s made sense to me, in a dark, perverse way (my favorite way, actually), that, naturally, life can be extremely challenging (for everybody), and that getting a novel published must entail a lot of missed and wrong turns, and dead ends. Of course.

There’s something else to be said for always getting lost. It mega toughens an already tenacious soul, because there are just two choices when you can’t find the turn in the road that you think everyone before you already has: either plop yourself down and cry—been there, done that—and/or just quit (ditto, but who wants to be a quitter?), or square your shoulders and make a list of options, because there are always options, including pulling up your big girl panties (this is called grace), and getting out of your own way.

Community can ground souls. So I’m happy to be sharing space on Rooms of Our Own, yet I’m equally happy for my own room within this safe place: this is balance. Every woman should have a room of her own. To be, and for sorting her stuff out before hitting the road again, identifying what’s become too heavy or unhealthy to carry and what is still absolutely necessary, two remarkably fluid things on any life journey.

We are so not quitters unless we consciously choose the quitting roads, which are dead ends to life and writing. So, women of the world, and writers of course, check the elastic on your thongs and fasten your seatbelts, because we are just getting started on starting over once again, within this blog. Because we can. Because we possess a certain kind of stamina for rewriting our very own Mapquests, keeping in mind that despite where we start and restart, the bigger points are, first, showing up, and second, staying mindful within the journeys.