Two weekends ago I tried to make Oatmeal Crisps. I was sitting at this very laptop feeling as though I was wasting my Sunday morning, not writing, neglecting my food blog… and decided to see what recipe in my grandmother’s box I could tackle with the supply of my cupboards. It seemed relatively easy… and I have a plentiful supply of oatmeal. I could easily accomplish that… and something else. Only, I was overconfident, not very mindful of the delicacy of instructions… and ended up with burnt sugar all over the bottom of my oven and cookies that were more like toffee than, well, cookies.
I believe I cried. And got all worked up about feeling stupid and foolish… and all that silliness that a certain time of the moon inspires in one’s inner monologue.
Then I decided I could use that – the burnt sugar AND the whimpering self-pity - to start a scene in my current manuscript. So… what ended up a failed blog post was a good way to show the inner conflict of one of my narrators.
I made art imitate life.
Yesterday I felt that same urge to whimper without the excuse of the moon. Just an overall sense of foolishness for not getting something I wanted, something I stretched my hand out to and for which I was kindly, respectfully… rejected.
I was home for a snow day… which may or may not have been a blessing. On the one hand I was free to cry my eyes red without worrying who would walk in the door of the office and ask stupid questions. On the other hand I was free and made my eyes and nose very red because I had no reason to not cry. And I felt very stupid and alone and pooh, glum.
I’m not one to spend hours bemoaning her single status. Indeed, I’ve taken a rather satisfied attitude in my Jane Austen marital identity. Maybe I don’t have a very romantic real life, but I do have powers of observation that will help me construct a compelling love story on the page. And it’s a reality into which I have settled rather nicely. Except on days like yesterday.
And crazy author that I am, not having set my eye on anyone in particular, I found myself saying… I wish I had a Ben right now.
That’s when I stopped my whimper and curled up a bemused smile at myself.
I wrote An Ever Fixed Mark in a fury at the end of 2008 and leading up to my birthday in 2009. Lizzie was a character I needed to get out of myself… and yet one with whom I don’t completely identify. She has all my pathos on steroids…so when people say they read it and see me in her, I’m a little hooray and a lot… oh gee… great. Then they ask about Ben. Who is he? Code for who do you secretly love forever? In one of these discussions, I realized… of all the characters in that novel… Ben is me. Or, maybe, rather… what I want to be. Cool as a cucumber. Calm under pressure. More interested in saving the world than self interest. Flawed enough to still be human. But patient, intelligent… and loyal.
So… in this moment of hysteria, when I wished I had a Ben with me… wasn’t I wishing to have those idealized qualities in myself? The patience, the determination… and the motivation beyond self.
This is one of those posts that I could very well read a year from now and have a completely different perspective. It’s just… the world in which I think some writers live. Our characters are our voices, our fantasies… and in a way that only makes sense to me… my self.
I have a Ben-like character in my current manuscript. Only she is not as good. Well, she isn’t a vampire. She’s a bit crazy. But brave. A survivor. Enormously flawed. And completely devoted to someone she loves. To her sense of righting a wrong. And she likes roses.
I think my coffee table requires a vase of roses… a little life to imitate my art.