Watch out. I’m on a mission.
At least, I was. I got one of those urges this morning to purge old papers and files and clothes I never wear and kids’ clothes they’ve grown out of and get wicked organized. I’m one of those people who operate better when life is alphabetized and smells of sandalwood.
Somewhat in conflict with this desire to be clean and organized, I am also a saver. I have a string of diaries dating back to my first entry on December 11, 1988. I save gift bags for reuse and ticket stubs for nostalgia. I cannot let go of my Sewanee lanyard from 2013. I used to be a pretty offensive pack rat, but I have trained myself, forcing my hand through the shredding and tossing and donating, taking a note from Elsa about letting it go and ignoring how that didn’t actually work out for her so well.
But the thing is, I’ve been feeling pretty shitty about writing lately. Unmoved. Unproductive. Neither Hananah nor I have had much gusto lately, which doesn’t help. Usually, we are on different schedules for funk. This is probably the direct cause of my need to purge–to feel more in control. (Good God, the control issues this blog has exposed!) This whole one-story-a-week thing is a complete nightmare. It’s killing me, because I am an overachiever (or just achiever?), perhaps with a touch of perfectionism, and it eats my insides to know this early on that I will fail. Even as I can look at how completely unrealistic such a feat is for me. Not only do I not have the required time to crank out all of those stories, I am a slow writer, a meticulous reviser. I would be sitting on top of fifty-two inauthentic drafts at the end of the year if I actually pulled it off.
And I’d probably save all of them in a box, clearly marked with Sharpie.
So I got that urge this morning, and I started going through files originally saved by my father which were recently dumped onto me. This is even more of a nightmare, because I wasn’t the one who saved them in the first place, but now I look at them and think, “Well, that’s kind of cool to have that. I should probably hold onto it.”
I love records and archives. I probably got this from my father who probably got it from his mother, a woman who saved all of her correspondence with my grandfather during World War II. I have all the letters now. Remind me to tell you all about it. You know I will.
And as I have been going through stuff this morning, and finding myself incapable of the great purge I embarked upon, I came across one my very treasured possessions. My very first piece of fiction.
It is typed, bound, and illustrated. My elementary school in Charlotte, North Carolina had a program where students wrote their own books each year. Second grade was the year I crafted my first real story called The Mystery Tunnel.
It weighs in at a whopping 36 pages long. I remember when we got them back, bound and ready to be illustrated, that mine was a monster compared to the other students’. Apparently, they did not share my enthusiasm for the assignment.
It’s about a fatherless family (*spoiler alert*: he died in a random act of violence) who discover an orphaned and very Un-PC Indian American boy living in a tunnel near their house. The boy had run away from slavery (I’m not sure the historical context, but eh…) and distrusts their intentions.
His name is Loa. The family brings Loa home to live with them, intending to send him to school and blend him into their family, but he again distrusts their intentions and runs away.
The suspense! While Loa avoids an old man who was either trying to help him or capture him, his soon-to-be adopted sister, Suzy, has a psychic premonition that Loa has ventured to Silver City. *Spoiler Alert* He did go to Silver City! They find him again and live happily ever after.
Turn to the back of the book. There you will find an “About the Author” page.
Fortuna has a way, sticking this in my path as I tried to sabotage myself: “I can’t write if my daughter’s clothes are not organized in their drawers!” (Confession: I totally organized her drawers.)
Yet here is seven-year-old K.K. reminding me of our dreams. Here is seven-year-old K.K. proclaiming that she will be a writer! People ask me if I always wanted to be a writer, and I say, “Yes, since I could write.”
I have the proof right here.
Man, seven-year-old K.K. was a badass. Not only is she like, “yeah, I’m gonna write books, and they will be famous,” but she’s also a zen realist who said, “I also realize that they will not be perfect, and I’m totally cool with that.”
Wow. Wow. Wow. Did she ever start things off with a bang.
I owe it to her to put the files down and keep pursuing this art she and I both love. I owe it to her to stop allowing feelings of failure to get in my way. I owe it to her to try.
And damn, may I be just like her when I grow up.
[Below: Page 2 — The Father’s Fate.]