Thursday, December 12, 2013

And what about the work?

Maybe it is because I am not feeling well.  Maybe it is because the magic of this place is finally settling in and becoming my baseline.  Maybe it is because I am finding that rhythm I felt I had no time to find.  I dug in a little deeper today with my work.  That is to say, I starting freaking out.

I gave myself one goal while here: revise one chapter of my creative nonfiction novel.  I say "chapter" with some trepidation.  Before I left I confessed to my mentor/friend/colleague, Marilyn, that I was afraid what I thought would be one chapter of the book, was actually going to turn into one book.  If you aren't a writer you may not be able to fully grasp the gravity of this revision and thus will not be able to fully appreciate the gravity of my freak out.

Let me back up a bit.

This creative nonfiction novel was my thesis project.  It follows four generations of women on my mother's side.  Like most of my work, it is fiction based on autobiographical events.  Sometimes leaning more towards fiction.  Sometimes leaning more towards fact.  Writing in the space where fact and fiction overlap is my shit.

For various reasons, Cleofas is the "chapter" I hoped to revise while in Vermont, mainly because she is one of my favorite characters.  I can't get her story out of my head.  I hadn't read her chapter, quite honestly, in about two years.  When I did, it felt like an outline--there was so much more story to tell.

My great-grandmother, Cliofas, and her husband Jose.

So here I am.  Writing the gaps.  Feeling completely overwhelmed by the scope of her story.  I already see further revisions down the road that I can't even begin to think about now.  (I am not fully committed to the idea that Cleofas is her own book, but it is clunking around in the back of my head.)  It is historical so I find myself getting lost in research.  It is personal so I find myself texting my mother for more information and needing to do her character justice at every turn.  It is emotional so it all weighs heavy on my heart. 

Then I remind myself to breathe.  One sentence at a time, Candy. 

I'm describing my freak out to my friends over dinner.  Yet another gift of a residency: being able to discuss your artistic freakouts to people who understand and actually give a shit, who will sit and talk it out with you until you've hit some emotional core or just can't talk about it anymore.  Thankfully, mercifully, my companions are experiencing a version of the same over their own projects.  One says, "Well, as an outsider her story sounds beautiful, but I understand you have to give birth to it."  Another says, after admitting to her spouse that she too was freaking out, "My partner said, you don't know where these two weeks will lead you, how it will influence your work later.  This is just as important as the work you complete while there."

I'll go to bed tonight holding on to that last thought.

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