Thursday, September 9, 2010

My Good Side: The Writing One, I mean....

I am working hard to not turn into the Alanis Morisette of blogging.

I do realize that embedded in the truth of my last post is a lot of bitterness. The other thing I recognize and want to acknowledge is that, other than the pregnancy part, you could replace the "he" with "she" and it works for both genders. I am guilty of behaving like this too (except I don't believe I was ever insulting, rude, or dishonest during the end of any relationship I've been in, including my marriage). In fact I'll tell you a secret, one of the ages in the age list is my own age at the time of my offence.

When I wrote What I Can't Blog About, Story Teller Holli commented and suggested I let it all out and just see what happens. And I've been thinking for a couple of months on how to do that tactfully. The problem with the discussion about rebound relationships (and if you read it and you didn't know what the hell I was talking about..... there you go) is that it begs you tell specific stories. Several of the men from my past that inspired that literary effort I could write about easily and without remorse but there are a couple that I could and would not write about because thinking too much about it still causes me a lot of pain. I'm not interested in attacking or embarrassing anyone. This is not a revenge blog.

And aside from that, the interesting part about my history with rebounders is not the individual stories, but that there are collectively so many of them. And that it spans my entire relationship history. For me this begs the question of what is it about men in that state that I am attracted to? Like a woman who repeatedly finds herself in abusive relationships (which also, at the beginning, look like dream come true relationships and eventually turn into hurtful nightmares -- these assholes attract women to them somehow so they must know how to pretend to be nice), why am I attracted to hurting and broken and, arguably, profoundly insecure men? I'm still trying to figure that out.

I read something interesting while doing a Google search for a picture that would fit. The article says that rebound relationships never last long, but they will last until the healthy person can no longer tolerate the emotional distance of the rebounder. As an adolescent, for me, that was always 5 weeks. Maybe shorter, because I have often thought that what flipped the switch in the guy, turning him from being a romancer into being an insulter, was my questioning of the emotional distance and my demands for more.

But the great excitement for me in writing Anatomy of a 5 Week Relationship is that it is the first fiction based writing I've done in a couple of years. I envisioned a blog where I took a bunch of lines that guys say to girls during the charming phase of a relationship and then the ending phase of a relationship and tell a painful emotional story of contradiction and baffling inconsistency and it would be punctuated with my (guttural response) but have no narration or over-analysis of what what going on. Yes every single line is something that some guy said to me at some time -- sometimes more than one guy can be attributed to the same line --but collectively it is a giant work of fiction. And to me it reads more like a poem than a short story. 

And I'm kinda proud of it. Proud enough of it, as a matter of fact, that I emailed it to my Mentor to get his opinion.

About 5 years ago, after I finished the 2nd draft stage of my first novel, I applied to a mentorship program through the Manitoba Writer's Guild. This program paired "emerging" writers with published writers to work together for 6 months on a work in progress. For me it was a gift and a dream come true to be selected for this program as writing that book was a huge emotional awaking for me. I was also clueless and lost about what writers went through emotionally while writing and I thought at moments that I was losing my mind on a roller coaster. Writing can be a constant battle with your self-esteem. Some days you think you suck, other days you think you are a genius. I had never in my life talked to anyone about writing before. It was something I did in secret with my bedroom door shut and the do not disturb sign metaphorically visible and in big block letters: Don't ask me about this and don't talk to me. This is MY private thing. I had no idea that what I went through in my writing process was normal. I had never finished a novel before, even though I had started or outlined many. In my teens if I got the urge to write, I would sit down with my notebook and begin and then the phone would ring and someone on the other end would say, "Whatcha doing? Wanna go hang out with so-and-so at such-and-such?" And out the door I went. Writing abandoned.

The confusing part about the mentorship is that the Mentor who chose me was Laurie Block -- a 50-something poet. Why the hell would a 56 year old man who's main literary genre was poetry, have any interest in my girly little teen novel? But it turns out that no more perfect a person could have chosen me to work with. We were psychologically and emotionally on the same page immediately. He didn't pick me because of the story I was writing. He didn't pick me because he thought I was necessarily the most talented writer in the pile (although he did see promise), he picked me because of the passion he saw in the letter I wrote for the selection process and because of the person he saw in that letter. He didn't care about the genre I wrote. It wasn't long before Laurie was not only my writing mentor but he was also my confidant and friend. It was Laurie I looked at one day sitting in his kitchen in Brandon near the end of our mentorship, and without even really hearing myself or my words or what they ultimately would come to mean, said to him, "My book is more important than my marriage."

So I sent Laurie that blog entry because he knows my writing and he knows where the heart behind what I wrote is coming from and because I trust him beyond measure and value what he has to say. He made me burn an entire manuscript of my second novel once because someone in my writers group at the time wrote scathing and irrationally rude comments on it and he could see how those comments were killing my spirit.

Here's what he said about yesterday's post:

Thank You Kim. It works - it's fresh and it's authentic. I'd change the title though. Anatomy suggests dissection piece by piece. This is more about language and trust - the confusion, giddiness, crazy-making stuff that seems glued to love. I'd call it You Say because it's about words and honesty; bullshit and truth. For me it's also about deep confusion, about not being sure of what you hear. Or at times say. I recognize my self, my troubled history in that. It's so hard to ask for what we want and need. It's so impossible to become soft and vulnerable in the face of so many scars that remind you of what can happen when you're open to life. How we give our best selves away, in spite of all difficulties, and how those selves are handed back, stained and worse for wear.

Sure their are mechanical problems about voice - who's speaking and who's opening the basement window to internal conversations but they only add to the emotional vertigo. Besides I'm not responding as a mentor but as friend, as peer. and I agree, this reads like a poem. And I'm trying to picture you reading it out loud.

You are a writer, you'll always be one.


"Emotional vertigo" -- I like that. And he's right about the title. Shortly after posting that blog yesterday I got an email from one of the boys (now a man) who I include amongst one of the "10" (and I don't know if it is exactly 10 -- I haven't sat down and counted) and he said: "Ouch...I can understand all of that. But in my defense, I was screwed up." And that email gave me the belly laugh that I needed. That guy technically wasn't on the rebound, I don't think, but I did use one of the lines he said to me many years ago regardless so his age at that time shows up in the list. There were a couple like that. This was fiction, after all. Creative licence is essential.

The email exchange carried on for a couple hours between real life work bits. It isn't hard to suck me into chatting about the creative process. And he too talked about what I think is what Laurie meant by "emotional vertigo":

During the read, I did feel that I couldn't trust the storyteller. Which in itself is a great change from most stories. I remember reading a few novels and studying a few more at University like that. Of course I can't remember what they were but I did enjoy the ambiguity. And I did spell that correctly the first time. With relationships it is always a unisex thing. He/She can be the giver or receiver.
I then asked him to clarify what he meant by not being able to trust the story teller because I believe that to mean that it is possible that the story teller is not telling the truth or has an untrustworthy perspective .......

That is sort of what I am getting at, perception. It is difficult to follow who is who, that's the point right? The definition of us and them is crossed in the delivery. You are going to make me reread and give examples aren't you? Not trusting the storyteller is a good thing. It provides the razor's edge, the different sides are the same, the gray area between the white and black, and other cliche examples. If the storytellers opinion changes during a story its more interesting, more real, more from the brain, not engineered but created.
I don't know if he's right or not but I do kinda like the fact that I made him think and he could be articulate about it. I like even better that he took what I wrote for what it was worth and didn't get defensive on behalf of his species. This is a guy who obviously many years later likes who he is and takes responsibility for the hurt he caused others in his past. Even if he was just trying to make me laugh with his original email.

I'm trying to get back to having fiction writing in my life so today's post is about celebrating a small victory towards that goal and I appreciate everyone who took the time to comment on that particular blog both publicly and privately. Fiction is a terrifying thing because so much of your soul goes into it. That post is intended to be literature rather than a blog or a rant or a piece of social commentary. It was a bit of a departure for me in this forum. Perhaps I confused some of you?  Good.

I'm always drawn to writing about the emotional circumstances that drive human relationship. I wrote my first book while trying to escape my marriage and came out of it drowning, grasping for another passion to be my life preserver. That passion turned out to be a person. I wrote my second book while battling heartbreak and frustration. I couldn't write a stitch the whole time I was in the midst of my own rebound relationship and I knew that couldn't be good (In fact some of my early blog entries were written while I was in that relationship and I look back on them now and I find they read stilted.). And in my most recent relationship, (which I was in while this blog was picking up speed so I knew it was a relationship of progress), I used to say to myself, if this doesn't work, I'm going to spend some time writing and figure it all out. Maybe I subconsciously knew that the "writing" was on the wall already. Who knows.

All I know is that I am burnt out from relationships. The end of that last relationship sent me into a bit of tail spin for a while and my writing got put on standby. Relationships period are on standby. I feel I am sending out very powerful don't-go-there vibes to men in general. I have a confession to make. The only men I can stomach flirting with right now are married to other people and I'm doing this because I know these men are safe and aren't going to convince me to go to a place I'm not ready for.

I'm taking writing time now. This is good for me. Baby steps.


Lynn said...

"Writing can be a constant battle with your self-esteem." Correct. If you weren't winning that battle, you would not be blogging. Thanks for sharing this.

B. Lynn Goodwin
Author of You Want Me to Do WHAT? Journaling for Caregivers

Kim said...

Thank you Lynn, thanks for reading and thanks for commenting. I think you are correct that blogging is helping me to "win the battle.". Blogging is definately a first step. I've noticed how my eagerness to write and the volume of writing I've done has increased over the past couple of months. It was always just a matter of time before I got back to it.