Tanya speaks my mind.
This is her prompt for today, Day 76 of her 365 day challenge:
Try it! Truly, there is nothing like it--except teaching at times. Singing and storytelling are performance, too.
My character Alice is a performer of story partly because this is something I have experiential knowledge of and partly because I love telling a story that tells a story. I love telling stories that are both literal and allegorical, both logical and associative. I like how multiple story both progresses as in familiar narrative overlaps and also piles up as in collages and the workings of a single mind. Minds are too connected to heart, body and spirit to work on a single plane. They are singular only in being one of a kind.
So, to work with Tanya's topic, "whatever I most want to avoid," I'll start with a free-write rant. I'll start here and now. Then I may shape it a little immediately. Then I'll stand up and dance with it, continuing a creative process that I have given Alice and I have been trying to articulate in the episodes (chapters) of my novel.
The Free Write
I most want to avoid falling on my face. I mean that literally. See this tooth? It's an implant. And see this chip? Implants are expensive so I learned to live with the chip. These are the remaining scars of two separate falls, both of which also broke my glasses, cut my face, scraped flesh off my knees and ruined my clothes and my composure. One happened in front of a movie theatre and drew that date to a close. The other happened in San Cristobal de los Casas in Chiapas, a state in Mexico. That one was very costly even without fixing the chip. The first was more embarrassing as getting an implant occurs in stages--surgically removing the rest of the tooth that broke below the gum line and living with a temporary plate for several weeks before the surgeon embeds the screw and the dentist sculpts and attaches a new porcelain tooth. That temporary plate fell out several times while I was teaching, revealing me to my students as the gap-toothed witch that I truly am deep inside. Talk about vulnerability and fear! No. I want to avoid falling on my face most of all. And I wouldn't mind not falling flat on my face in other ways as well. Like, I don't want to fail and make a fool of myself when I publish the novel I am writing. I don't want to have to defend what I know is a shoddy piece of work. I want to be proud of it; I want it to be note-worthy. And I don't want to publish it myself like I had to do with the poetry books. I want it to be wanted. Pride goeth before that kind of fall. And I don't want to catch myself counting my chickens before they hatch. And I don't want to resort to cliche--though it may be safer to say things that were successful before. Aargh. I see the Catch 22 here: Wanting to live on the edge of risk and not wanting to risk anything at all. I most want to avoid writing recognizable characters and opening up controversy--but I want the types to be recognizable amid real places like the Women's Center and This River of Women Theatre Company and the Michigan Women's Music Festival and the Women's Encampment for a Future of Peace and Justice. And I think I can't have one without the other. I may want to avoid finishing the book, therefore. Hmm. It was fine to read aloud in front of people who don't know me or the movements involved. What about ones who do know? I most want to avoid being silenced when I am enjoying myself so much. I'm even enjoying the jigsaw puzzles of collage I am building to keep real folks and their friends from seeing themselves in my words. They may certainly see a resemblance and suspect they are the model, but I can honestly say that except for in one major case--that of the director of one of the theatre pieces--no character is molded from only one real live person.
OK, that's 15 minutes of simply writing without a plan, free writing. I see I could go back and talk about the aborted date in the first paragraph. I could say why I was in Chiapas. Those would be fine reasons for divergence, but would stalling in these spots be useful? Should I return to them later instead? I could talk about my encounters with the craft in the second paragraph. Hmm. I could explain my identification with characters in Heller's novel Catch 22. I could physically get smaller and smaller until I have to find a way to get bigger again--in body and in voice. I'd love to show a spirit growing from a peanut into a glowing bell inviting me to ring and to sing. But of course, this writing is unfinished. It warmed me up and revealed a danger--a hard truth--to me, but it is still a free write journal entry.
What is the dangerous truth? I have to watch out for familiar voices of mine telling me that I probably can't and I maybe shouldn't finish and publish and disseminate this book. I could act out these voices on stage as well. I know most of them well, though sometimes I forget: "Don't embarrass the family." "Don't reveal private matters you could be arrested for someday." "Don't talk about gender, sex, lesbianism, cohabitation, women's community, where you were last night, etc." I'm writing about all of these things and more.
I can't shape this into a performance now, but you can imagine the voices and dialogues all portrayed by one solo performer. I'm going off to think about the revelation above. Because I haven't written since I left Pendle Hill, and I won't until I return from visiting my family. And I worry. I guess I will not read sections to them as easily as I did to strangers. But truly, I doubt anyone will ask. That thought is consuming. And relaxing, too.
I'll write more as way opens.