Friday, September 17, 2010
Catskill Mountains, sing this song, do-da, do-da!
I've been in the beautiful Catskill Mountains in New York State for twelve days now. I've watched the leaves go from green to yellow and now they're turning orange and red. It's stunning here, and I've seen it from the land and the water, on foot, by car, train and canoe. This has to be my country fix, since we're heading to NYC in a week and will be there for another two weeks before I head home to the city and batten down for a few months without traveling at all.
It's calming and serene and zen and mystic and mythic and windy and rainy sunny cold warm hot wet and hippylicious, not quite what I expected. It was more like visiting a foreign country and finding out it's just your grandma's house, than going away. Well, my grandma's house, anyway. I'm rested and relieved, slightly hung over. I'm also suddenly, remarkably, surprisingly, enlightened.
It turns out that the Catskills is the perfect place for an epiphany, so I figured, what the hell, I'll just go and ahead and have one.
Webster's defines epiphany as, "a perception of reality by means of a sudden, intuitive realization." Like say for your whole life, you just hated turnips but couldn't really say why, and then one day it occurred to you that turnips taste like feet. You would go, "Aha!" which is the word that comes after an epiphany.
I guess it's the fresh air. Or the long stretches of time without a siren in the background. Or the HUGE ground hog that lives in the shed behind the house. Seriously, this thing is HUGE. Like a Buick. They call him Cazzo, which is A VERY BAD WORD in Italian. DON'T SAY THIS WORD TO AN ITALIAN.
So as you can see, there are many things in the Catskills which might be the catalyst for an epiphany. So here's sort of how it went:
The last ten years -- omfg TEN years -- have been an odd assortment of lessons and punishments, banishments and humblings and paranoia and minor and major heart break. Through this, I have produced a great deal of bad work, some very good work, and a lot of treading water work, like the FIVE television options that I have dicked around with in the last five years, a total waste of my time, but semi-lucrative and I did get to learn that I never ever ever want to create and write a television series, unless someone asks me to and then I bet I would. (That was not my epiphany).
So yes, dicked around, wasted time, blah blah ...
I had this realization not too long ago. I realized that my life had sort of come full circle from where it had started out. I realized that 25 years ago, I was a single mother, living in 600+ square feet with a kid and a dog, writing stuff. Now I'm a single mother, living in 600+ square feet with a slightly older kid and a dog -- and a cat. But there you go, a circle, and truly, I think it is a circle of something. That was my epiphany: the circle of something.
I was walking to town a couple of days ago and I passed by a little blue house that is just so hypnotically attractive and I thought, I like it because it's small, and all my houses have been small ... That started a chain of thoughts, each a new revelation.
20 years ago I decided I was going to write a novel. I did. It took a long time, but I did write it, it wasn't very good, but it WAS a whole novel, completed and that in itself was an accomplishment of some order. And it made believe that I could do it again, maybe write a better one. And I did. I wrote Bastion Falls, which was published in 1995 and did quite well for me.
Bastion Falls was a little bit better than my first book. Then I wrote another one, a few years later, A Dry Spell. And it was quite successful, selling all over the world, and making me a lot of money. It was a bit better than Bastion Falls. Then I wrote The Dwelling, which was a bit better than A Dry Spell, and what I think of as my best work ... so far.
Then I wrote The Thirteen, my novel that will be in stores next spring/summer. It's not what I think of as my best book. I've had my struggles with The Work in general in the last five years, and after my humbling experience editing The Thirteen with my talented and wonderful Random House editor, I realized that I had learned more editing that novel, than I did writing all four of them. Five if you count the very first, unpublishable novel.
I have a novel on deck. It's going to be a fun book to write, with a lot of the elements that made me want to be a writer in the first place. I got to soothing myself with this fact after engaging in a downward spiral on that long walk to town that day that I had the epiphany. I thought well, The Thirteen is okay. The new book will be a little bit better, and then the book I write after that will be a little bit better ...
And just like that: Epiphany.
My life is exactly the way it was when I started writing novels, when I had that love lust in my heart for the work of it, the pleasure of the keyboard, desk lamp, dog at the feet, cat on the lap. I'm exactly where I was, physically, spiritually and in my heart. In a kind of universal sort of hippylicious way, I am being given a second chance.
OMG it's so BLOODY OBVIOUS. It's like God is SNICKERING behind my BACK for the last YEAR and poking Buddha and going SHE'S LIKE GOING TO TRIP OVER IT and maybe they're making book on how long it's going to take me to figure it out and Mohammad and The Creator are all DUDE SHE'S LIKE BLIND and my grandma is shaking her head and putting ten bucks on September 14, in the Catskills in the late, gold light of afternoon on a road to town, going past a little tiny house. Grandma knows me best.
The important thing is, here I am, at the beginning of the best part, the journey to being the kind of write I know I am. I wrote a simple book, the next one will be a little bit better, and then the one after that will be a little bit better and I hope, I can do this right up until I die without God/Buddha/Grandma having to take me back to the beginning of anything again because let me tell you, as hippylicious as an epiphany is, the shit leading up to it sucked. Like Cazzo, Dude.
Pretty Blue House Photo by Pretty Red Holli Moncrieff