For me, art is dialogue. A message sent out into the world, quivering in the space between two people. A word spoken, waiting for response. A spark extinguished if not received.
After too many messages crumpled in the receivers’ hands, I stopped communicating—for me, it was a series of entering art exhibits and experiencing a rash of rejections. In my journey of being an artist, the embers of the heart spark where everyone can see. And, when they are ignored, it is deeply personal. I stopped painting a year or so ago. (In my last post, I sputtered to life again. Painting a little, slowly, cautiously… again…)
But it seems that since I was born—I live, I breathe, therefore I create. One outlet staunched, another bulged and leaked. I turned to another medium.
Holding words like brushes, I swept them across pages. And started writing a book.
I’ve always loved writing as much as painting, and so, starting in 2015, I wondered, Can I write enough words on the same topic to equal a book? I started with another writer’s challenge (I wish I remember who)—if you write for 30 minutes a day, you will write more than if you never start. I committed to that half hour a day. I deliberately ignored any guidelines for writing a book or the process of pursuing publication. I simply wanted to see if this story could live.
The characters started becoming my friends, my constant companions. I could tell them what to do (oh, the sweet power amidst the real-life challenges of raising four teenagers!) But, then, much like those flesh-and-blood children, they started developing minds of their own. I’d be writing nice little parts for them, and before I knew it, they’d be off doing their own thing—making crazy calls in the wee hours of the morning, going sledding in the middle of a blizzard, finding themselves in dangerous predicaments in other countries.
By 2017, 35,000 words spilled across the pages. Not a book, but a beginning. I shared it with a dear friend who ever-so-kindly refrained from telling me how bad it was, and ever-so-gently guided me (forever grateful to my lifelong friend Pam). Apart from her encouragement, I would have given up.
By May 2018, the manuscript extended to 65,000 words. I attended a writer’s conference and learned that 85,000 words minimum is the ideal length for a fiction work. By the grace of God, I met author Deborah Raney, who read my proposal and forged a linchpin of hope. With her constructive criticism and encouragement, I continued writing.
In November 2018, I submitted an 85,000-word manuscript to Deb Raney for professional editing.
In January 2019, with 90,000 words after incorporating Deb Raney’s invaluable input, I submitted the proposal to an agent
Now, I wait, wait, wait. The website proclaims a 6-8 week normal processing time, at the end of which, if a write hears nothing, the process ends. Deb says it can take much longer.
I wish I could keep it here with me, safe. But for me, unless it is spoken to another and received, it’s dead before it lives.
So, as the days and weeks crawl by, I try not to think about it, out there—somewhere raw and throbbing (probably buried under countless other manuscripts.) I hope it’s still breathing. I’ve subjected the characters I created (and who created me) to a ruthless world.
Maybe I will regret this, letting my heart fracture in someone else’s hands again.
If only I could put it back into my chest, but try as I might, it won’t stay put. This heart is ever pulsing and reaching for meaning, inspiration, beauty and depth of feeling. And wanting to share it with others—endlessly translating those sensations into ripples in the river of creativity, hoping to engage another in conversation.
Those embers of my heart are out there sparking like fireworks, yet again. In the end, though, in the lyrics of Ron Pope’s song One Grain of Sand, “I would rather learn what it feels like to burn than to feel nothing at all.”