I’m writing on a novel I haven’t touched in nearly two years. Its only 20 pages (with seven added today). It’s about a character I created, who came to reside in the apartment above me, in my actual apartment. Oddly enough a year and a half ago a woman actually moved in upstairs, and she was nothing like the character I created.
Which has nothing to do with the story, really. I didn’t stop writing because of her. I stopped writing because the silly story required a kind of melancholy, a kind of vulnerable insecurity, where my chest is open and bared to the screen. No adventure. No thrill of the hunt. No meeting new people. This book is about an intimate relationship with a woman I’ve never met, who doesn’t exist, to a man I’ve come to see as a lofty ideal so distant from humanity he isn’t even human. He is the Overman, the Great Observer, and while she fights to find transcendence, he fights to find his humanity. Through their similar pursuit of “purpose,” she walks in the steps of a god.
Yeah. 20 pages in and she’s only just said hi. She’s only just introduced herself to ME, I mean. Let alone knowing the Beautiful Monster (think Great Gatsby meets baudy Tesla fiction and not Dracula or Frankenstein’s monster). I stopped writing her because I wasn’t in the mindset. I didn’t sympathize with her anymore; she walked in a kind-of holding pattern, where she dabbled in this and that, but didn’t dive, or step out, or even try to stretch her wings. She has a kind of insecurity, the story is complex, (even in the past tense vs present tense manner) and I need to feel sympathetic to write it. And I need to feel sympathy toward me, I guess.
People who write for a living, for business applications and journals, tone and perfect and tune their skills to a savage word-count, where research and word-choice is perfected to exhume (or perhaps construct) an idea for an audience. Up until recently, I could have written on this novel, but the emotion would not be inherent. I wouldn’t capture the heartbreak of small failures, and the elation of infinitesimal success. Where most write with power and creativity but honed to a specific edge, I write like a painter paints.
I know so few like me it’s kind of funny. Like, I live in a world of technical. Technical writers, CPAs and accountants and engineers and doctors and lawyers. I see artists. I know artists. I watch their fluidity, their developed skill that, ultimately, parallels the technical but approached from the other side.
So today I wrote seven pages on a novel I may never finish, about the two halves of the Divine, the Feminine and Masculine, when disconnected and separated from the other.
Every time I think of writing on this novel, I start on page one and read the poem I included:
I wanted to give you something —
no stone, clay, bracelet,
no edible leaf could pass through.
Even a molecule’s fragrance by then too large.
Giving had been taken, as you soon would be.
Still, I offered the puffs of air shaped to meaning.
They remained air.
I offered memory on memory,
but what is memory that dies with the fallible inks?
I offered apology, sorrow, longing. I offered anger.
How fine is the mesh of death. You can almost see through it.
I stood on one side of the present, you stood on the other.
-Jane Hirshfield, from Come, Thief
If I do not find the proper reaction in reading it: raw pain, visceral or otherwise heartbreaking, I close the file and move on. Today I found my writing insecure, so I wrote. A strange way to be, but beautiful just the same.
Not all of life is a high point. Not all of life is wanderlust and wandering lust. Some of it is refurbishment. Some of it is a reminder of a different kind of humanity.
Oddly enough the girl that lived above me moved out. I barely knew her name.