Wednesday, February 1, 2012

I'm sorry...I'm busy being lonely

When I started this blog, and seriously committed to a writing routine, I made a promise to myself that I would never write or utter the words "writer's block". So...I am going to honour that commitment I made to myself, and not write those words. However, for the last two weeks, I have been stuck.

Writing 101 tells you to write what you know. Miriam Toews (one of my favorite authors, who I refer to repeatedly) grew up in a Canadian Mennonite community. She writes about children growing up, and struggling, in Mennonite communities. Her characters may be fiction, but I’m guessing she draws on personal experience and observation when developing her characters. Which is why, I’m guessing, her characters are painfully and wonderfully real.

For me, I’ve felt my fair share of anger, success, failure, passion, joy, sadness, fear, frustration, heartbreak, love, grief, devastation, and excitement. I know these emotions – I’ve weathered or enjoyed all of them at different points in my life. So, it makes sense that my character, while fictional, is influenced and shaped by my own experience with these emotions.

But, it seems I am now stuck. She (my character), has reached a point in her story where she is completely and utterly alone. And, really, I’m expecting this to be the climax and turning point in the story: how she weathers this will determine the outcome of her story. As I sat in front of my screen two weeks ago, it struck me. I have never felt completely and utterly alone. I mean, sure, I`ve had the odd night or weekend by myself where I have wished for company. But completely and utterly alone? Never. Which is why, I reasoned, the words weren't coming to me. 

So, I decided to embrace loneliness. You know, in the name of research. I dined alone, sat in food courts alone, went to the theatre, movies and ballet alone, sat home alone, avoided phone and email. I tried to immerse myself in loneliness. Going into this, I prepared myself for the worst…I may end up feeling depressed, hopeless. I may spend my evenings crying alone. Bring it on, I told myself, it’s all in the name of research. Strangely, though, it felt fine. I didn’t feel lonely, I actually felt empowered. And enjoyed spending some time by myself.

Later, when I reflected on this (worrying that I would never be able to write my character properly. She needs to be drowning in the depths of loneliness, dammit!), it hit me: thanks to my friends and family, I have never – and can never - experience true loneliness. When I`m dining, walking, theatre-going alone, I'm never truly alone. I know one of them is only a call away. So I have the luxury of enjoying those alone moments, knowing they can come to an end at the push of a button. Huh.

Whenever I've faced all those other emotions - anger, success, failure, passion, joy, sadness, fear, frustration, heartbreak, love, grief, devastation, or excitement…one or more of my friends or family members have been by my side. I am so grateful for, and so fortunate to have, the people I have in my life. Thank you to each and every one of you.

So it seems that in trying to learn about my character, my character had me learn something about myself.  Turns out, she seems to be writing me as much as I'm writing her.

So, what have you been taking for granted in your life that you are oh so grateful for?

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