I guess I'm so obsessed with learning how to write well, how to write so that my books will be read by millions, is because I want to tell my story, the story I couldn't tell as a child and was told to keep quiet as an adult. The story that almost made me take my life. The story I want others to know, so we can all stop it. So those who won't speak out of fear will perhaps speak up. If we all stopped hiding behind our fears, perhaps we could change this world.
But I'm not there yet. I'm just not good enough yet. I've only been writing for four years, and it's nothing. I'm often terrified of dying before I get enough writing under my belt to get that good. It's a real fear. It's eating me. It's driving me to hardly sleep or eat, and to work and work and work like mad. Learn, learn, learn. I don't know what else I can do to speed up this process. The urgency is palpable.
I know that unless I learn how to dramatize my pain and turn it into a novel, where at a distance people can recognize themselves, I don't stand a chance. Nobody cares for personal pain: we simply don't see each other in each other's eyes. It's too difficult. It's not a mirror. But it's a mirror when it's removed from us some distance: the farther, the better. It's a mirror when it's a metaphor that makes us recognize what we failed to see in ourselves before. It's the power of comparison with the known that makes us understand the unknown. It's deeply rooted in our survival instincts: we're looking for patterns. When we recognize patterns, we become alert. And when we see a new pattern enter our life, we pay attention. That's what dramatizing is, creating a new pattern out of an old issue. It's difficult to do. Everything under the sun has been already said. How do I say it again?
Learn the craft of storytelling. It's my only chance. Learn to turn it inside out and up on its ear. Learn to see the structure of the story so I know how to dress it up and present it in a way I want, to communicate what I want, making people feel exactly what I want. Until now I've been going by my gut. As of recently I'm starting to learn how to go by my head. And it's so hard, I want to weep. It seems I'm making minuscule steps that amount to nothing. And that only makes me want to push harder.
I've been asked recently what drives me. This is what drives me. This terrible, irrational, unexplainable fear of dying before I get to tell my story. I don't mean books. The number of books I will write doesn't matter. The story underneath them all is the same. I've survived. I've managed to heal and I'm prospering. I'm happy. I can sleep. I can make love. I can feel content for hours at a time. I want to share this. I want to tell you that if you're hurting, you can do it too. You can win. I want to reach as many of you as I possibly can. I'll spend the rest of my life doing it, I promise you. Or I'll die trying.
My story is simple, common, and unsavory: I was sexually abused by my father and my step-grandfather.
I've been told as a child that I was a liar, imagining things. I've blocked it out. As an adult, after years of therapy trying to understand why I detested sex and couldn't orgasm, I went to Russia, saw my father, and finally remembered. When I went public about it, I was told to shut up and was denounced by certain members of my family. I still don't remember specific incidents. But my body remembers the pain, and my mind the emotions. TUBE is yet another attempt to dramatize this, it's theme: penetration. JANNA goes further, with the theme of castration. MARQUIS AND PLATO, the funny book about a cat and a pigeon, deals with sexual identity. CUPID, about a librarian after divorce, deals with sexual discovery. I can go on. I have fifteen books outlined, and it seems my mind is inexhaustible.
But I know one day I will exhaust it. The part of my mind that keeps nursing the pain. It will be gone. And that's another reason I'm so obsessed with learning how to write well. When I'm free of it, I'll have room for other people in my life. And when I do, I want to teach them my skills like my writing mentor is teaching me right now, to keep the world turning. Keep the love spreading.
Thank you for staying with me on this journey. I love you.
P.S.: Don't fret. The post about how to write your novel logline comes next.