On the Periphery

Things change. Life throws us curves and changeups. It's good to have a place to vent.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

I completed my Master’s work last week, sent if off, sat back, and breathed a free breath for the first time in nearly two years. The moment of freedom allowed me to reflect on what I have learned about my writing—and about myself.

Thoreau said, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” Langston Hughes wrote about the consequences of “a dream deferred.” In any drama—and writing fiction is writing drama—obstacle, and the struggle to overcome it, is the essence of the work. When I began in the Program, my stories were relatively upbeat, the conflicts trivial. Sure, the language was usually good, but I relied on stock situations, two-dimensional characters and the obligatory (and predictable) upbeat ending.

I always thought this need for happy closure was because of my inherent optimism. Through this program, however, I learned to evaluate my writing on a stricter scale, and from that I have come to realize that my “optimism” and desire for that blissful wrapup stems from a psychological need to bury a darker place within me, a place riddled with unhappiness and dreams deferred. When life is beyond your control, the printed word can conform to your wishes, smoothing out life's wrinkles, even for a while. It's the difference between a trashy romance novel and Cormac McCarthy's The Road.

Yes, Sandi, there is a darkness in my soul, and perhaps by recognizing it I can root it out, examine it, transfer it to paper. Maybe it will be cathartic. Maybe, as suggested by Hughes, I will explode.

Maybe I would be better off keeping the darkness hidden away, remaining couched in my euphoric laminate, letting pain be a song unsung to die with me. But I can no longer do that.

I am a writer.