A dusting off
On Writing: “Things will be better now. You’ll see.”
I printed the first draft of my novel on pink legal paper. A neighbor gave the paper to me when we first moved into this house five years ago. I pulled it from the top shelf of my closet and blew the dust from the pages.
A dusting off.
The page, my mind, the words, the keys, even the muscles in my fingers—everything is in need of a dusting off. A renewal. I’m needing to find my writing self again. She’s in there, under the thick layers of motherhood. I’m hoping this first draft will help me find her.
When I say the first draft what I mean is a very rough loose story that is unfinished. 86,000 words. 218 pages with no ending. Still, though, it’s a start.
I haven’t touched this novel, haven’t even looked at it, since the second week of December. Not the last December but the one before that. I wrote this very shitty unfinished draft in six weeks intending to finish it by the end of the year. Then everything stopped. The ideas. The plot. The structure. The words. I couldn’t get even a sentence onto the page. I couldn’t focus. I couldn’t stay awake.
That’s when I found out I was pregnant.
All of the energy and inspiration that had been flowing into my novel now flowed into creating my son. Every part of me was being used to create his tiny hands and dream-like eyes. His smile and his peach fuzz hair. The sound of his laugh and the way he splashes in the bath.
The characters of my novel existed in the background of my mind during those long months when my body was changing, shifting to make room for him. They were showing me who they are, page by page. The girl who wanted to be seen and not seen. Who was wading through grief so thick she could hardly catch her breath. Who dreamed of a life so much bigger than what had been given to her. The boy who struggled with that same grief, but in a different way—in a silent, masked sort of way. Who had dreams too, but couldn’t see past the moment he was in to reach for them. Who needed escape more than stability.
It has been almost two years since I opened the document I titled, “Joe.” I didn’t fully know her story, but I had an idea of who she was. I’ve found pieces of myself in her, pieces of my father, pieces of people I’ve met only once in a Turkish cafe that overlooked the Alps between France and Switzerland.
I read the last sentence I’d written before falling into the all-encompassing world of motherhood. It was as if Joe knew what was to come.
“Things will be better now. You’ll see.”
How did she know?
I have yet to read the pink pages—this world filled with people I’ve created while also creating a living, breathing being. I wonder what truths await me.
What will I find after the dusting off?
Read more from AFTER/WORDS—an essay that asks the question, why can’t I be both, the mother and the writer?
If you enjoyed this piece and you’d like to support my work (and the writing of this novel), please consider becoming a paid subscriber for $5/month.