Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Letting Go

I have just finished writing the first draft of a new novel.  It has been nearly a year in the making.  I have but a bit more typing to catch up on and I have been, with the indulgence of my patient wife, reading the full book for the first time.  So now I reach that critical stage of revision, that process of assessing the book and seeing its needs and attempting to locate the solutions for those needs.  It is always precarious stuff, for the completion of a project of this size can cloud your vision.  It is like faling in love.  You are are so certain you are falling that you can't see clearly, yet of course love scares you, for it is an investment in another and in yourself and in blind belief, and out of that fear the logical part of you knows you must act a bit carefully, knows that you can't make real commitments without intelligence and respect while also remaining true to your core emotional self.  With a book, it is too easy to love it and just as easy to despise it.  Niether are useful places for edting and revision.  You must find the middle ground wherein you can identify what is deserving of loving and what cannot be passed over without more exertion, more discipline.  You have to find a way to walk the line between emotion and logic--the book will need both.

It is also a time of beginning the long goodbye.  You have lived this book every day of your life for nearly a year and you will continue to live with it daily for some months more.  Its people and places are as real to you, maybe more real to you than your waking life.  But if you get it right, if you finish the revison and give the book its own life, you must let it go out into the world and suffer the ravages of the world on its own.  You're trying your best to make it ready.  You want it strong and hardy and ready to succeed in the world.  You have devoted yourself to the thing and now you must let it go.  (And maybe more scary still, you must now go find its sibling and start all over again--but that is, as they say, another story.)

I have written this current book in the year where my youngest child has also left home and gone out into the world. We've tried our best to make her ready, and while we celebrate her success, we are in a kind of deep grief, for she and her sisters have been the focus of our live's most important work for the span of a generation now.  It is hard work for her too.  Like the book, the world we face upon our own is not always an immediately kind or welcoming one, or so it seems.  The hardest lesson for the parents, and for writers, maybe harder still for children (and books?) is to recognize that letting go is not saying goodbye, that the bonds remain every bit as strong, as formative even once we've had to share this being with the larger world.

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