Thursday, November 20, 2008

Finish the Story; a Mother's Tale

Children are not very forgiving, at least not of the flaws of their parents. It was a good idea to begin with or so I thought. They harass me, incessantly, on long drives, on slow evenings, on snowy days and dark, close nights in the confines of our camping tent, to tell them stories. They don't want the store-bought kind, the ones some other writer has struggled to create. They want me to tell them tales off the top of my head. They give me a theme, "Mom, tell us a story about a sea-turtle and a jelly-fish." "Tell us one about a mountain lion and a squirrel." They're nothing if not imaginative. And so, I sigh, close my eyes, and begin.

A tale told by the seat of one's pants is not an ordinary kind of story. Strange things happen when you allow your imagination to run free. There is no editing, no careful choice of word. The force of the story moves itself, the unexpected abounds. I listen carefully with my inner ear. In that slight pause before I speak, I grasp the tale from the nothingness and weave it into being.

I find, I like these rambling, unpredictable tales, so I decided to write them down. Why not put them into books of my own? Other children might like to read them. Another struggling writer-mom might be grateful to be able to read a story.

I don't have a lot of writing time, like most artists, squeezing it in between dinner and home work, soccer practice and the weekend chore-list, between kisses goodnight and the pull of sleep. Writing these stories was a good idea, but it's hard to recall it all to words in a single sitting.

Advice to all writers: Do not read your children an unfinished story. They do not respond positively, at least my kids don't.

"Read the end." The 7 yr old said. I had kept him and his 9 yr old sister completely captivated right up to the point where the old man was bobbing in the black, black sea.
"I can't read it, I haven't written it yet." I was thinking of course they would understand.
"This is the worst story ever." He glares at me from his warm blankets. "It doesn't have the end!"
"Yeah," His nine-year old sister agrees, "It doesn't even have the mermaids, yet."
"It needs the rest." he says.

Of course it does! I just haven't written it yet.

Note to self: Children do not make good literary guinea pigs.

There are many risky moments on the rocky road to achieving a dream. Moments when you could throw up your hands, turn tail, and crawl back into the safety of your quiet cave. Should I be flattered or horrified? They loved the story, loved it enough to be very upset that it hadn't been finished. I feel obligated to finish it now. Before, it was just the hint of idea, the pale, frail glimmering of opportunity. Something I could set aside, work on at leisure. Last night, fate made an edict. To save face with my kids, I must finish the story. Weary from work, disconsolate with my minuscule time to write, I worked on that story long past the time when my babies lay dreaming, till my eyes were grainy and my vision blurred.

Shhhhh, don't tell them, but "Tell Me a Story of the Old Man and the Sea", is nearly done.

I'll let you know if they like it.


Clarke Crutchfield said...

Hi, La, I just found your blog from Cabin 20 -- looks great. I note that despite all the distractions of jobhood and motherhood, the issue of whether to be a writer is long past for you. You are one. The process has started, and it's plain to anyone who looks at this site that it won't, can't, stop now. Your readers, present and future, are the better for it.
Best, Clarke
(Ps Thanks for marrying us!)

lakshmi said...

Hi Clarke! You came by to see me!

So, I guess I have to admit it now, though it is still difficult: I am, in fact a writer. Writers are the most amazing people on earth. How could I be one?

I realize not everyone thinks writers are amazing, this is just my world-view, but it IS my world-view. It makes me have to ask difficult questions about all that self-critscism I've been harboring for years. Actually, all that's gone now. Banished by the sheer joy and rightness of being able to express. Nothing in my young days was more compelling to me than a blank piece of paper. I'm delightflly stunned that I have suddenly given myself permission to write whenever I like.

From whence did all this bravery hail? From the depths of my soul. Somewhere, I always knew expression of self was paramount above all things.

Thank you for being my friend and cheerleader! You are, yourself, a talented writer, so positive input means a lot to me coming from you.

Also, I'll be happy to marry you and Grace again whenever you like.


el poquito said...

Lakshmi, Hello.... I just came by to check out your world over here and have just finished enjoying a little tour around your place. I love the windows that you allow us to peek through - you with the kids at bedtime, your writing desk, Virginia hills, writing in the moments and spaces between. You manage to pack a lot of living into a day and inspire me to do more in all the small moments.

I very much enjoy your writing. You paint with a free and easy palette.

would love to hear some of the kid stories, finished or not...

all the best,

lakshmi said...

Hi Ed!

As soon as I finish one.......he he he. Though I suspect you would be a much kinder guinea-pig!

Thanks for coming over! Anytime you have a story from your life you want to share, feel free to post it here. I would love for this site to build, with others sharing moments from their neck of the woods. But, I do understand posting-shyness. The first time I posted to Luis' site, it took me an entire hour to work up the courage!

I'm glad you enjoyed your visit. Come by anytime.

Sraddha Van Dyke said...

Post the whole story!!! Now *i* need to know the end too!!! (and please don't forget the mermaids!)

lakshmi said...

Not to worry, the mermaids have appeared. But, it's not quite finished. The final page has not been written. Once done, though, you'll see it.
<3 U!