My Third Novel's Conclusion, My Heartbreak

My heart begins to break when I think about completing this particular book -- because this narrative has sustained me like no other story I've known. It's both more personal and more universal than my other works. But beyond memory and archetype, it's a cri-de-coeur about needing to become the person one is destined to be. And in the writing, I have met my own life's work, my own fated journey -- having the sense all the while that the pages are suffused with a resonance, an energy, an electrified field that defies explanation. Writers hope and pray to be overtaken by a work in this way -- to be conscripted into passionate service of a profound story. To experience it even once in a lifetime seems a great privilege. I still have perhaps six months before this novel is complete, and this constitutes my reprieve. Because I'm not ready for the beauty to end.

Monday, May 14, 2018

The Poet's Quest

I seek out evocative poetry when I'm writing fiction.  It's a quest of my soul to find the piercing image, the lyrical phrase, the resonant epiphany that compelled the poet to give life to verse.  And, because my current novel is set on Cape Cod, I recalled the sensuous poem, "Quahogs," which appeared in The New Yorker two years ago.

I'll post it here for a short time in the hope you might acquaint yourselves with the rest of Frank Gaspar's work.  I grew up watching the ritual of clamming, and even participating in it a few times -- and it's as salty and cold and wearying and delicious and transcendent as the poet describes.

                                    Frank Gaspar

It was for the wind as much as anything.  It was for the tidal flats, for the miles of bars and and the freezing runs between them, blued and darkened in the withering gusts.  For the buckets, for the long-tined rakes.  For our skin burning and the bones beneath, all their ache.  For the bent backs, for the huddle toward warmth beneath our incapable layers, how we beat ourselves with our arms.  The breath we blew, the narrow steam that spun away.  How we searched their tell-draggle marks.  Then the feel of them as we furrowed.  Then it was surgery and force together.  Like stones.  Opal or pearl or plain rock, ugly except they were beautiful, their whorls and purple stains.  The bucket's wire cutting with their weight.  For the sky blazing, its sinking orange fire.  For the sky's black streaks with night rising, winter-sudden.  Back, shoreward, home, the tide creeping like a wolf.  For the little stove warming, its own orange fire.  The old pot, the steam, the air in savor, the close room, the precious butter, the blue fingers throbbing, our bodies in all the customs of weariness, the supper, succulent of the freezing dark sea come up, and hunger, its own happiness, its own domain immeasurable,  It was for the hunger.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

To Welcome Company, to Embrace Seclusion

"In order to write about life, first you must live it." -- Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway often spoke about the tension between art and life -- and the fact that there is a contest between the two for the serious writer.  If a writer retreats into seclusion for too long a period of time, the work becomes limited, self-referential, irrelevant.  And if a writer gives way to too much "living" -- too much travel, experience, adventure -- there isn't time for deep reflection, for revelation, for the quiet in which the best creative insight can occur.

So, the artist must try to do both -- to do and to be -- to welcome company and to embrace seclusion -- to accept the conflict between art and life if any of the mysterious alchemy of creation is to occur.  In the best of circumstances, the writer invests the work with life, emotion, vibrancy, transformation -- and the work returns to the writer more life, emotion, vibrancy, transformation.  The creator and the creation offer breath and sustenance to one another in a miraculous circuit -- an electric current -- that brings energy and renewal to everyone who approaches it.

How does this happen?  How can life and art join together to become something greater than the sum of separate parts?  It's a mystery.  And like all enigmas, it wants to be allowed its sacred space.  The tension between art and life continues -- in a dance, a dialog, a passionate affair -- that is sustaining and enlivening to both of them.  And this writer lives with one foot in both worlds -- that of the adventurer and that of the recluse -- until the work is done.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Bending the Universe

A friend of mine recently slipped a surprise into my suitcase:  a letter I had written to him two years ago.  In it, I had told him that, while I realized he was already a great success in his career, I sensed his dream for himself involved something greater -- a new venture that he himself could own, a business he could nurture and grow to full fruition.  Today, that dream has been realized -- to the extent that my friend feels he is engaged with his destined life's path for the first time.  Given that I see his robust fulfillment frequently, it's strange to look back to a time when his entrepreneurship was a mere hunch I expressed in writing -- a recognition of his true potential -- a belief.

Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, used to speak often about "bending the universe" to his will.  He had a conviction that he could create the impossible with the right friends and sufficient belief.

And when the impossible has happened for me?  When the Oscar-winning producers have signed onto my current project?  When the agents have lined up to offer their support?  These events have always begun with belief, creativity and generous support from my friends.

I always like to pay forward such good fortune -- to bring my friends along with me on my outsized adventures, and to support them with dreams of their own.  It's a mysterious alchemy that allows our secret hopes to take shape in the real world.  There's a deep well of fulfillment in realizing our own dreams -- and there's an overflowing sense of joy in tangibly supporting our friends' hopes, too.

The universe truly can be "bent" to our will, it turns out.  When we understand this as the truth, all dreams become nearer to us, all ambitions live within our reach.

The German philosopher, Goethe, wrote, "Whatever you can do -- or dream you can -- begin it.  Boldness has genius, power and magic in it."

It's a delight to discover how right he was.