Dear supporters of Scattered Sanctum (the book and the journey), and anyone else following along,
The last update I wrote to you was in September, when I was delirious and unmoored, recently returned from the tornado-like pilgrimage. At that time I was explaining that I was very sorry, but there was no way I could meet a January deadline for the book. (And what insanity possessed me to set such a ludicrous deadline in the first place?) I’d like to tell you, now, where I’m at and where the book is at.
Here’s the thing. You know how intense it was, creating and running the Kickstarter campaign. You know that my life changed irrevocably last June when Lily and I drove away from Florence, my marital separation officially began, and we launched a breathtaking, burnout-inducing, 10,000-mile mad mission.
Okay. After all that, let’s say that Shit Got Real. Let’s say that the Universe kicked first my right butt cheek and then my left butt cheek and then knocked me down and stood on my belly and laughed.
There were times when I tried to write and could not, when writing was a far-flung fantasy, and it was all I could do to make sure that Lily and I were eating food and vaguely okay. It feels crappy to write that. I’ve often felt like a crappy mom. Good moms never get depressed and barely functional, right? Or good writers? It’s okay, you can laugh with me, bitterly at first, and then get more into the warmth and rhythm of it, the ridiculousness of being alive. The ridiculousness of how I’ve set myself up.
I did start writing, eventually, in sudden flows and more often, agonies. I re-read most of “Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life,” by Anne Lamott. I read, lurchingly, inconsistently, “Naked, Drunk, and Writing: Shed Your Inhibitions and Craft a Compelling Memoir or Personal Essay,” by Adair Lara. (I so wished that all it took was drinking copious amounts of alcohol and taking my clothes off, but alas, this was not the writing advice contained therein.) For a time I was able to go to a weekly writing group with Dave, Suzanne, and Al, when we would meet up at the café at the Montague Bookmill and mostly be companionably silent to each other, working on our stuff. It was one of those group times when I came up with a crazy, over-100-chapter outline for the book, which I now hate and have discarded as a viable structure. (I DO need to keep it for the future entertainment value, however.)
Structure and focus have been elusive. I’ve struggled mightily to answer certain questions: What is the main point of this story? What was I looking for? Where does the tale start and where does it end? On my original Kickstarter page, you can see that I set out with various Big Questions about home and community and connection—oh, the impressionistic gestures, the burning urgency behind them—I can still feel it. What was I thinking? I was thinking: I’ll figure it out later, how to write about all this. First I have to live my way through the questions, like Rilke said. But later is now, and life hasn’t stopped, and questions have piled up higher and deeper. I thought I might take hold of some actual answers. Answers! Such is the hubris of 42!*
I’m on the cusp of 43, now. This means I am leaving answers behind. I’ve been diving into some questions that shake me relentlessly:
Who is this book for? Is it for me? Is it for my supporters? What is it that I think they expect? Can I let go of basing my self-worth on my ability to please others?
How can I get the help that I need with writing?
How can I write about deeply personal things that are not just about me? How can I make everyone feel safe and respected and loved? How can I release the constant vigilance that hobbles my ability to write?
Home, community, connection—those were safe, vague words to lob at you. They weren’t entirely the wrong words, I think, but the more I circle around what feels like the core of my story, the more personal it becomes, the more intimate, the more vulnerable, the more dangerous. When these things peel away, when I become homeless at heart, when every dwelling and system and structure loses its meaning—what do I do with that? How do I write about that? All that’s left are all my relations, in free fall.
I am as committed to this process as ever, my dears, and appreciative of your continued witness and support.
*Click here for more background on 42 as the Answer.
(Update cross-posted on my Kickstarter page, where you can read more about the project.)