Slicker is still on my desk, its shiny white jacket reflecting the sunlight and obscuring the picture and the title. The author's name is crystal clear, right there in the middle of my work space. The whole thing seems to be mocking me.
Allow me to wallow for a bit, will you? I'm jealous. I want the attention span and commitment to create a novel of 260-some pages. I want to be the kind of person who can return to the same project day after day and continue to find joy and wonder there. I want to have an idea that can be stretched and turned and shrunk and exploded and at the end I want to have something more than a series of snippets. I want, as Daddooooo would say, a finished product.
Publication would be an added bonus, but it's not a mandatory part of my fantasy right now. I'm wondering why I can't find the fortitude to create something longer than bathroom reading. People who say that newspapers are dying forget that there have always been columnists - Erma Bombeck, Herb Caen - whose brilliance was best enjoyed over a cup of coffee and a danish, or soon thereafter. My laptop does not accompany me everywhere. Reading The Burrow requires power and booting up and opening browsers, none of which are remotely feasible in the same way that a newspaper column might be. Do you get my drift? I am trying to be delicate here.
But I am bitter. Annoyed. Aggravated. It's all inner directed, an ad hominem attack on myself for that missing piece. I like to write. I love books. I'd like to write a book and hold it in my hands. That's as far as I can get and I'm peeved.
I've lusted while I listened to novelists talk about characters taking their story to places unforeseen in the original outline. I've envied the personal relationships that develop between creator and creation, the twinning of oneself to another in a realm that is as real as you allow it to be. In Arthur and George, Julian Barnes depicts a Conan Doyle who is repelled by the success of Holmes. He is antagonistic to those who cannot separate him from his fictional detective. I'm sure that's how Sir Arthur felt; it's just not me. The notion that I could create a character who was experienced as real by a reader stops me dead in my tracks.
I will make a confession here: In the 6th grade, I knew that Jo Marsh and I would be friends if I could only just find a way to make it be so. The fact that she was a figment of Louisa May Alcott's imagination was irrelevant. I knew that she had existed in the real world and it was just my mis-fortune to be 100 years too late. The calendar was no more of an obstacle to my delusion than was the text between the hard covers of the book I bound and rebound with plastic tape, reading and re-reading it because it was as close as I could get to her. This came to mind today as I was wondering how Desiree Christian-Cohen was doing this semester at college. Actually, I was wondering how Nina, her mother, was doing with it all. I was having a conversation with them, listening and smiling and, I am sure, making a fool of myself on the treadmill as I watched them realign their relationship once more. It's more than feeling that I know them - I really do know them. Desi could ring my bell and I'd take her in; she can share a room with Bristol. And I'm grateful to Lucy Jackson for introducing us.
The ability to sit with a subject for longer than an afternoon just seems to be missing from my genes. I've never found a place or a person or a situation that held the attention of my authorial pretensions for much more than it takes to write these posts to you. At least that is what I have been telling myself. Maybe there's more to it, though.
I'm beginning to wonder, as I reread this and laugh at myself, if the problem is not deeply personal. Perhaps the reason that I have never written anything before is that there was never a connection with the reader before. When I sit at the keyboard and my eyes wander to the clouds casting mountain shadows, I am sharing the moment with you. Not that you are aware of it, or that you particularly wanted to be here in the desert southwest with me, but you are there for me, with me, listening to what I'm thinking and I'm sorry if I'm dragging you unwillingly but I seem to need you.
Honestly, I don't think I can do this without you.