I’m embarking on something new.
And while Erica Jong’s classic Fear of Flying was about a woman’s sexual liberation (which rest assured, mine is not!), it encompassed all the fears Isadora had about breaking out of her mold.
Of living life anew.
Okay, so what I’m doing isn’t entirely novel for me, and something I once did for lots longer stretches. But decades have passed since that occurred, and I’ve not done this in quite the same way.
Why didn’t I think that would happen? I just didn’t think about it one way or another.
I know. Silly, isn’t it?
Of course a reason has existed for me to not do this. Because this desire isn’t close to my heart, it is my heart. And sacred to my soul.
Funny how when you put off such passion, it speaks to you quietly in the night . . .
Although if you don’t heed that whisper, the nudges get louder. More insistent. The repercussions from avoiding that thing grow graver.
Which became a constant in my world.
Managing one’s heart’s desire in the face of “real” life can be a trick, no? I’ve talked about this a lot, about going for the dream while still paying the bills, etc. We walk a fine and often tenuous tightrope.
But I know—truly I know—what happens when you put those dreams on hold.
For a long stretch of my life, I was only a writer. Ahhh, the stories I produced during that time! Nothing serves a book better than for the author to immerse herself entirely in it, shuttering the outer world for the luscious fertile plains of fiction. Simply, nothing.
But life of course had to be lived in the mundane as well. At the time, I had 3 books traditionally published (one novel and 2 co-authored works of nonfiction). Three more would follow down the line. And while that brought monetary dividends, those weren’t enough to live on.
So I started my editorial business, and was shocked at how wonderfully that went.
So much so, that for the first decade or so, I squeezed in writing in between. The next decade, I hardly wrote at all.
Because while I love editing, and love working with writers and seeing them become successful, my heart belongs to my own fictional worlds.
Y’all know this already, I know, as I’ve talked about it many times.
So after having that ‘is that all there is’ moment, and knowing what that means, I rearranged my life to facilitate writing fiction again.
I’ve almost finished the new wine novel. Almost. Over the last year, I’ve restructured and deepened it. Polished, and rewritten and revised. For 9 months, I took a week each month to do so, plus the morning hours the rest of the months.
Then this year, I let it slide a bit. Well, that’s not entirely true. I needed distance in order to see what still needed to be done.
Clarity came as to the further restructuring, the deeper insights into the main character. The kind of clarity that for an artist, only comes with that distance, and a quieting of the mind.
Rather than a process of analyzing and thinking out the issues, it’s rather one of observing, then letting the answers trickle in. Allowing the richness of the subconscious to reveal deeper visions still.
And now, for the first time in decades, I’m taking the entire month to do nothing but write.
Fear of success? Fear of failure?
Those aren’t the root of my fears. Because of course, being the analytical person that I am, I had to snuffle that all out before I could begin J
I know the lure of the muse, how she seduces and beckons as alcohol must for the addicted. I know the abyss into which a novelist must jump in order to fashion magic from thin air.
Heady and seductive and filled with the shadow side of the psyche, creation comes from the dark places of the soul. This, I know for true.
As it is for my main character in this book. As it will be for me as I deepen and finish it.
I may get lost there, indulging in the deliciousness of that world. And not return.
So wish me bon voyage and luck! I’ll see you on the flip side.
Award-winning writer and editor Susan Mary Malone is the author of the novels, "I Just Came Here to Dance" and "By the Book," as well as four co-authored nonfiction books, including "What’s Wrong with My Family?" and many published short stories. Forty-plus Malone-edited books have now sold to traditional publishers.