So far this blog has been about my relationships: with my parents, sisters, young cubs, and with myself. But I haven’t written about the biggest relationship I've been in over the past three years, my novel.
When I first decided to write “The Virgin Wife” (oddly, the title came to me before the story did) it wasn’t what you’d call a decision. It was just a feeling, like an imperative. Something I had to do. I didn’t set out to write it because I wished I could write a novel and look cool doing it, or because it would be easy (hell no), or a saleable idea that could make me famous. Nor was it a spiteful act against people by whom I felt wronged (we are all guilty of that, understandably so). I wasn’t given a say in the matter. In a way, the book decided for me. I was about to try to explain what I mean, but why bother when we have Virginia Woolf, who said: “I believe the main thing in beginning a novel is to feel, not that you can write it, but that it exists on the far side of a gulf which words can’t cross.”
My novel is somewhat autobiographical (please contain your surprise), and the desire to tell my story in order to confront and make peace with my past, was a key driver, albeit a subconscious one. I credit the teacher I had in my first writing workshop, when I still lived in LA, when the story was just a seed, buried six feet under, for inspiring me to take the leap. I believed, like most people do, that what I had been through was not all that interesting or exciting, and why would people care? She said, “You are the expert on your life in a way that no one else is. Only you intimately know the landscape of your experience and the people in your life, your family, your spouse, yourself, and that perspective is unique.” Weird how that was all it took, but yet I went home and wrote the first five pages of my novel that night. Ironically, they are no longer in the book. But writing them crystallized the essence and tone of the book onto the page, and into being.
I moved back to NY shortly after, and spent the next three years working on it. No no, that doesn’t mean I sat at my desk every day for three years. By work on it, I mean it worked on me. It felt as if some kind of eradicable bug or beast had abruptly taken residence in my psyche and could not be placated. It poked at me, chattered in my ear when I was trying to sleep, made me doubt myself and caused me to be depressed for days and weeks without providing me with a legitimate reason. It performed summersaults and triathlons in the arena that was my head to get my attention while I was trying to be present at work, or out with friends, making me feel and seem like a restless freak. The only times the book beast was satisfied was when I paid attention to it and took it for a walk around my laptop. For a few hours, we were in harmony, a happy couple, buzzing together in a kind of meditative bliss. But then I’d close the laptop and try to go do something else, and the f*cker would resume its tantrum throwing all over again.
I’m tempted to walk you through the rest of the timeline, tell you a bit more about this beast, my child in a way, and our journey together leading up to where I am today. I could break it down for you into some kind of equation, in the following manner: Shitty pages and false starts = six months. First draft = one year. Second draft = another year. Waiting for feedback = I lost count. But then I realized, that I’m terrible at math. And secondly, in light of the exciting news I got yesterday, the past feels remote. I’m not going to go backwards. I should not go backwards.
I sent my novel out to agents five week ago, after a triumphant cross over an illusive finish line, a perpetually moving target, and waited. In agony. How could I not? You don’t’ plant a seed, research special fertilizer, stand over it and water it, and then finally see it grow, and then not give a shit about its well being. But then miraculously, while I was waiting, the beast finally gave up, shut up, and went to sleep. It was in a coma. Waiting to be called back into action. For this I was grateful. A reprieve, time to live my life, focus on other things (things you have been reading about, because I was freed up to write this blog). But all along, I was waiting. Now I understand why I pulled my back, why my knees and wrists hurt. It's from all that finger and toe crossing. What kind of superstition is that, appropriate only for Olympic gymnasts?
Then I started to receive some passes. Which sent me down a spiral of despair (duh) and questions such as ‘Will this ever see the light of day? Will all of that soul pouring onto the page and agonizing duels with the beast, ever pay off?’
I had to fly to LA for 36 hours for work. LA is where I used to live, in what I call my “previous life,” where my novel is set. I’ve been here a bunch since then, and this time, when I landed, I felt a release from that life. Nostalgia had been put to rest alongside the beast.
And then, with my phone dying, in my hotel room, I got a phone call from a number I didn’t recognize. Without getting into it, because the details don’t matter, it was from a literary agent who finished my book. She liked it. She got it. She believed in it.
There are too many intersecting feelings and thoughts about that moment and the hours that followed, all overwhelming and emotional. I don’t have the capacity to explain them here, nor do I feel like trying to put those feelings into words. I guess finally, I want to take a break from that.
Pacing on the thick hotel carpet, then sitting, then pacing again, unsure what to do with myself, of course I called my mother, and my friends. My amazing friends. Especially my girlfriend who is a writer too, the special kind who despite her own successes and doubts, doesn’t have a catty cell in her and is the one who referred me to this agent in the first place. I don’t know many women like that, because they are rare. This isn’t cynicism, it’s called gratitude.
Amidst all the excitement, there was a reoccurring theme, called change. There is a great phrase in Hebrew, “Change your place, and you change your luck.” I changed my place as those of you reading this know. But I don’t think it was about changing my address. It was about its underlying motivation. About changing my attitude, my outlook, and being ready for whatever the universe was going to bring. Actually, I don’t believe in luck. Three times today I heard “all you need is a little luck and timing.” I believe that bad luck exists, and can mess you up. But good luck…it isn’t luck at all. It’s about acting and living according to what we want, from a place of truth and heart, and if we do that, then good things will flow out from there, in the form of this intangible amazing thing we call luck.
This post is a bit of a departure for me. Perhaps a little more serious. It’s late, I’m in a hotel room, and thinking back on the past day and the promise of what lies ahead. I guess this is a defining moment, casting a light on the past, and revealing that I’ve been somewhat adrift. Sometimes, we can’t view it in sharp relief until we’ve reached the next dock, the next place to drop our anchor.
Or in my wise and hilarious mothers words, when she heard my good news, she said, “Finally, finally, Baby Moses has reached the shore.”