Friday, January 31, 2014

The Soft Underbelly

31st January 2014

I cleaned my house today, a task I normally avoid as much as possible. But I am on edge. I haven't sat down at my desk to write in months. I am not at ease at all in this waiting period as we inch towards publication date, March 11th. I am on trial for my creative life and the verdict will be slow and laborious in coming. It will amount to numbers of rating stars and percentages and money generated. It is me distilled into this thin liquor, poured into a cup for everyone to see and touch and swill.
In the evil days of witch hunts, there was a man called a "witch pricker," whose job it was to detect witchy women by how they responded to the prick (we'll take that as an apt Freudian metaphor!) See above image. If you were pricked and didn't bleed or bruise, you were ipso facto the devil's accomplice. (I researched witches for my current book and even more for its sequel where the extermination of the wise women gets its due.) So, we know I'm not a witch, because I have been pricked and bled all over the place. But like the witches, I have no rights now. I must remain silent, because, again as in the case of accused witches, the very act of protesting proves my guilt. And as in the witch trials, it is always the worst of the rabble that pick up and throw the first stones.
So I'm feeling a little vulnerable and in a way I hadn't anticipated. Not to this extent. But it's worth noting as a part of this writing/publishing process. A writer writes in her own little cocoon, ferreted away in her office or (as was the case with me for some years) in a cupboard under the stairs. It's a struggle painting paper with words and seeing how the picture comes together, but it is your little world and no one intrudes. It's a glorious self-absorbed struggle, and when it is finished, you pack it off and send it out to agents and editors and, if you're lucky, they scribble notes on it and you go away and make fixes. But you are in control. The voices are soft and encouraging. And then one day before publication, your book is on-line and some people that you don't know are still whispering, but others are yelling and picking up stones, and all you can do is turn into a hedgehog and protect your underbelly. Because that underbelly has to live to see another day. It is the soft underbelly that did the writing in the first place.
So, that's where I am: a hedgehog, waiting for the noise to stop, waiting to get back to what hedgehogs do best - snuffling around among the leaves looking for worms.

When my kids were little I used to tell them a story I made up called Dreamboat. Well it's less of a story than a way to get your kids' minds to sleep, but apparently they liked it - my son even wrote a song about it (available on ITunes.)
I'm not going to give away all the details of Dreamboat because I entertain hopes of one day making it into an illustrated children's book, but suffice it to say that it pictured waking life as a stroll down a leafy lane that ended up by a lake where sat a boat of many colors. Going to sleep was a trip out on the lake, up and down on the small waves until you couldn't keep your eyes open. It's a pretty picture, and I suppose that at bottom my image of life is a little like this, a fairly sunny world painted in pastel hues.
Lately, though, it's felt more like being in a very small dinghy on a tumultuous sea with sharks taking jabs at this inflatable craft and threatening to sink it.
Am I tough enough to stay afloat?  I guess the jury is still out on that question, too.
I think I liked the lake better.

No comments:

Post a Comment