On the one hand, when I read the bios of writers published in American Short Fiction and the resume of Mary Karr on the back of Sinners Welcome, her latest book of poetry, I wonder what area of my brain is so delusional as to believe I have the right to call myself a writer (or maybe I'm taking the wrong approach - maybe I need to consider that my entire brain is delusional enough to make me think I have the credibility needed to say this with conviction.) Either way, I have been walking around lately asking myself, "Who am I kidding?"
I have also been walking around lately with a story swirling around in my head, a fictional story I have decided I need to actually write, and I have been obsessed with it ever since I started. Obsessed, as in you might see me in the grocery store looking intently at the selection of breakfast cereals, but really I am envisioning a scene in my story wondering if it makes sense, considering how I might make it more real, examining different arrangements of words and how each composition might best express the mood, idea and feeling I am trying to convey. I have been sitting down at my computer to work on revisions at, say, 11:00am, and the next time I look up at my clock it is almost 2:00pm. Each time I give this story my full attention, time vanishes as quickly as a child's attention at the sight of an ice cream cone.
I have never written a piece of fiction before, aside from a couple of short stories required of me in high school, and I'm still not quite sure what to make of it, and not at all sure if what I'm writing is compelling, interesting or artful. More than I am asking myself who I'm kidding, I'm wondering, "Is this a story worth telling?" For while I literally feel electricity in the air as I work on it, I still do not know if that is because the stars are aligning such that a perfect beam of light is shining down upon my creative process or because I'm merely attached to a mishmash of ideas that only make sense to me and I'm giddy with the power I feel at being able to create absolutely anything I want with words. Another way to express this experience is to say I feel like I am on a strange high, like I'm buzzed, drunk on all the possibilities, on this quest to write a story that makes sense and has meaning.
It is still a landscape of unknowns, but I'm daring to explore those fields, daring to wander out too far than perhaps I'm meant to, well aware I might have to make my way back to familiar territory with my hat in my hand, story a mess, nothing to show for all the time and energy I've been giving this endeavor.
But that's the deal, and I'm eager to run out into that field blindly, hair waving in the wind, no sunscreen, arms spread wide open, screaming like a wild banshee. Sometimes our fiercest breakthroughs happen in the midst of total silence; when the howling of our souls lets us know what it means to be alive.
"When my thirst got great enough
to ask, a stream welled up inside;
some jade wave buoyed me forward;
and I found myself upright
in the instant, with a garden
inside my own ribs aflourish. There, the arbor leafs.
The vines push out plump grapes.
You are loved, someone said. Take that
and eat it."
~Excerpt from Disgraceland by Mary Karr