OK, so yesterday - on Day 15 of my at-home writing retreat, - I was struck by a crisis of indecision about what to put in to the book - in this case involving some of Jani's original writing from the 1940s. I won't go into the details of all that, except to say it was making me feel like I had no idea what I was doing and who do I think I am anyway writing this book, and yadeyadeyadah...
I ended up logging back on to Facebook to ask friends there if anyone had some suggestions for these paralyzing crises, and I got some good advice. However, in the end I started working on a section I have been terrified by - namely, the beginning of the book - probably because I know how important not only the first pages but the first sentences of any book are for me when I pick it up to glance at an unfamiliar book (in a ye olde bookstore that is - where my analog self buys books...). So the pressure on this beginning for me has been immense and I've been convinced it's not good enough, etc.
While it's not anywhere near perfect now, confronting that fear and working on that section made me feel immeasurably better about the book itself. I'm still scared to go back there, but the moral of the story of Confusion Thursday was/is: nothing's wasted.
First I was staring at writing and could not decide what to add. Then I took a long walk in Inwood Hill Park with John. Then I lay down on the bed and stared at the ceiling for a while listening to the news and then in silence, and then after all that I finally had the guts to open the book up and look at the beginning...and started from there. The beginning. Radical concept.
BUT - and this is the important part - I know I wouldn't have gotten there without all of the above.
Writing involves writing, but writing a book seems to also involve a lot of staring at the wall. This is why I imagine most people think writer's are lazy so and so's, but I don't think we are. I think we need these times, too.
If I was rehearsing a play, as a director, this would take the form of rehearsing, trying different ideas with other people involved, and all of those ideas producing nothing good, until at the very end of the rehearsal - or maybe the next day - bam - breakthrough. However, all the work not used had to precede that...and then - this is the weirdest part - all that work becomes part of what the show is in performance, even if nothing in particular is kept.
The thing I keep having to get used to as a writer of a book is that some of this process just happens in my head. I should know this because when preparing for rehearsals, I have spent a lot of time staring into space, too. But the difference is: here, I'm on my own. There is no part where I get to hang out with lots of other people and hash shit out. A long way of saying: it's fucking lonely.
I may eventually, once I'm not stuck in the study with all the papers and The Thing is contained on a laptop, go out and write in cafes or even the writing meet-up things, just to be near other people word-wrestling. We'll see.
Meantime, it's Day 16 of at-home writing retreat and so far have written in my journal, seen some friends, and written here but not directly on the book yet, so time to do some of that...
My prayer is for a readable draft by Spring...or my whistling past the graveyard version: I'm writing until the book is done or the money runs out. Please say a prayer for me (or do a dance, or send a good thought) that it's the former.
Welcome to my blog..
"We struggle with dream figures and our blows fall on living faces." Maurice Merleau-Ponty
When I started this blog in 2011, I was in a time of transition in my life between many identities - that of Artistic Director of a company (Apocryphal Theatre) to independent writer/director/artist/teacher and also between family identity, as I discover a new family that my grandfather's name change at the request of his boss in WWII hid from view - a huge Hungarian-Slovak contingent I met in 2011. Please note in light of this the irony of the name of my recently-disbanded theatre company. This particular transition probably began in the one month period (Dec. 9, 2009-Jan. 7, 2010) in which I received a PhD, my 20 year old cat died on my father's birthday and then my father, who I barely knew, died too. I was with him when he died and nothing has been the same since. This blog is tracing the more conscious elements of this journey and attempt to fill in the blanks. I'm also writing a book about my grandmothers that features too. I'd be delighted if you joined me. (Please note if you are joining mid-route, that I assume knowledge of earlier posts in later posts, so it may be better to start at the beginning for the all singing, all dancing fun-fair ride.) In October 2011, I moved back NYC after living in London for 8 years and separated from my now ex-husband, which means unless you want your life upended entirely don't start a blog called Somewhere in Transition. In November 2011, I adopted a rescue cat named Ugo. He is lovely. As of January 2012, I began teaching an acting class at Hunter College, which is where one of my grandmothers received a scholarship to study acting, but her parents would not let her go. All things come round…I began to think it may be time to stop thinking of my life in transition when in June 2012 my stepfather Tom suddenly died. Now back in the U.S. for a bit, I notice, too, my writing is more overtly political, no longer concerned about being an expat opining about a country not my own. I moved to my own apartment in August 2012 and am a very happy resident of Inwood on the top tip of Manhattan where the skunks and the egrets roam in the last old growth forest on the island.
I am now transitioning into being married again with a new surname (Barclay-Morton). John is transitioning from Canada to NYC and as of June 2014 has a green card. So transition continues, but now from sad to happy, from loss to love...from a sense of alienation to a sense of being at home in the world.
As of September 2013 I started teaching writing (composition and rhetoric) as an adjunct professor at Fordham University, which I have discovered I love with an almost irrational passion. So blessed for the opportunity and hope to find a more permanent job doing same.
I worked full time on the book thanks to a successful crowd-funding campaign in May 2014 and completed it at two residencies at Vermont Studio Center and Wisdom House in summer 2015. I have done some revisions and am shopping it around to agents and publishers now, along with having written a rough draft of a new book and some other projects.
Not sure when transition ends, if it ever does. As the saying goes, the only difference between a sad ending and a happy ending is where you stop rolling the film.
For professional information, publications, etc., go to my linked in profile and website for Barclay Morton Editorial & Design. My Twitter account is @wilhelminapitfa. You can find me on Facebook under my full name Julia Lee Barclay-Morton. More about my grandmothers' book: The Amazing True Imaginary Autobiography of Dick & Jani
Recently, I started a website Our Grandmothers, Our Selves, which has stories about many people's grandmothers. Please check it out. I will be blogging there, too, now.