Look, I know.
This is supposed to be a light-hearted blog. I’m supposed to serve up wry, self-deprecating posts about me and my writing. I’m meant to be developing, God help me, a brand, in the hope that you’ll all go out and read my novel when it comes out next year.
But light-hearted is a bit tricky right now.
Earlier this year I separated from my wife. I am now living alone, a foreigner in a small town in central Missouri, with only limited access to my children. The rest of my family is on the other side of the world. It’s all very complicated – more complicated, actually, than you need to know. I have no idea what the future holds.
My life, in other words, is a bit rough at the moment. But I am still here, and still doing just fine. Because I am writing like a maniac.
For the past year I have been reworking A GOOD AMERICAN. More recently I’ve been poring over copy edits and responding to proof reader queries, and drafting a miscellany of additional material that goes along with the actual text of the novel. All this time, my next story has been slowly coalescing and taking shape within me, nagging at me to get out.
I have finally started to write that story.
It’s a painful process, watching a first draft materialize, especially at this early stage. I am still struggling to find the right voice, and waiting for the characters to emerge on the page. Words don’t always come easy, at least not for me. There is much gnashing of teeth as I work and then rework the same paragraph over and over again. But as I sit at my desk and tap cautiously away, an exhilarated calm descends on me. I am writing again. I can escape the stresses and strains of the real world, and flee into a galaxy of limitless possibilities and promise. I am thrilled with the story I want to tell. I’m anxious to discover if I’ll be able to do it justice. I hope I can.
It’s been a while since I’ve had to switch off the alarm clock at five o’clock. I’m usually awake before then, keen to get downstairs, fire up the espresso machine, and get back to Maine, in the late summer of 1973.
Writing gives me a sense of self. It centers me, and gives me strength. It reminds me who I am. Paradoxically, at the same time it liberates me, and offers me a means of escape, a way of forgetting the confusion that I find myself in, at least for a while.
We all need some kind of personal therapy at times to distract us, give us strength, keep us sane. You have found that in your writing. I do look forward to reading A Good American and your next book as well. Good luck to you Alex!
Thank you, Amy. Yes, writing is the best therapy there is – for me, anyway. And it’s a lot cheaper than an actual therapist – I know!
Here’s hoping that the best writing is born of pain, and that things get easier quickly.
Alex. I value your honesty here.
And it’s interesting you mention what your blog is ‘supposed to be’.
Whose expectations are those?
I’m captivated by your style & warmly anticipate the birth of your books.
A brand. Says who? The publisher?
I don’t know what’s right for you.
But I’m quite sure that somewhere in there, you do
Thanks so much for sharing.
Lily: all good questions. My publisher has said nothing about all this – the stuff about branding, etc., is kind of a distillation of the received wisdom of countless author blogs, discussions with other writers, and how-to books. Everyone has an idea about what writers should do, but nobody really knows what works and what doesn’t. And, of course, it depends what you mean by “works”…! In the end it’s about being true to yourself. And this post was perhaps more honest than some.
Alex, This is my first time stopping by your blog. I’m sorry to hear that you are going through a difficult time. It’s strange reconciling professional success with personal difficulties. I wish you all the best with your book and your family and look forward to reading more.
Write through the pain. Well, you know that.
Thanks for your good wishes, Erika. Yes, it is a bitter-sweet time at the moment, that is for sure. Still, you know what they say. It’s all material!!