I’ve never been white-water rafting or boating down a swift river. My boat rides have always been of the calm variety on a quiet river to the mouth of the ocean or on a lake or pond. So I have no idea what it must be like to know that there are rapids ahead and to have to brace myself for them. I do know, however, what it’s like to know that there are rapids ahead in life; and I’ve never quite figured out a way to deal with those other than to get progressively more nervous as I approach them or turn around altogether.
Writing is a lot like that, too. The actual process of assembling a mishmash of thoughts into some sort of coherent whole can be rough, and it can have a tugging effect on the soul, particularly if the ride takes you back through some difficult moments or over some rough spots. Is this what actors must do as they take on a difficult role, get completely inside it and live out the action as though it were fact and not fiction, or the present and not the past?
I seem to spend a lot of time in the calm spots of my life’s river. Is it because I’m afraid to tackle the rapids, that I am not quite sure what the outcome will be, and I haven’t yet learned to trust that it’s the journey and not the destination that matters?
I’m currently in the process of returning to a particularly difficult and personal piece of writing, one that I set aside awhile back, as I felt that I was getting TOO personal with it, and that scared me. I wasn’t ready back then to relive it, to walk again the paths that I walked 50 or so years ago, or to experience again the emotions that are still surprisingly as immediate now as they were then.
It is, however, a story that I feel must be told, and I have a very strong sense that I must be the one to tell it, primarily because I lived it and no one else did in quite the same way. If a writer feels at any point that she has come at last upon the story that she was born to write, then I suspect that that’s where I am now. I no longer have 10, 20, or 30 years to wait until the time is right for this undertaking. The time is now, and I must set about it or not do it at all.
It can go only one of two ways, and my fear tells me that I’ve already made the choice.