birth

[commencing: free-form thoughts!]

~

Tomorrow’s my birthday! I’m throwing a sangria party at my house. This means later I will be shopping for lots of booze and fruit, two of my favorite things to shop for. I’m not sure who will come to the party, because I’m not sure who I invited (I’m a little sheepish about the collegeyness of my apartment, and also how far away it is from everything) and I’m also not sure who will take me seriously (if I did invite people, I did it in a pretty flippant way, c.f. above-mentioned sheepishness).

I like to celebrate my birthday, because it’s fun, but I always have misgivings about a party/gathering in one’s honor. It seems like a lot of pressure. I don’t mind corralling people for OTHER reasons–author events, happy hours, networking, theater-going, whatever. But birthday parties seem like “ack, all eyes on you!” kinds of occasions.

Anyway I’ll let you know how it goes. My friend Karen is bringing a camera so we can post pictures of the outcome.

~

My great-grandmother (whom I never met; she died in 1978, and I was born in 1983) was named Assunta. This is the Italian equivalent of the (slightly) more common name Ascension, usually given to girl babies born in this window of August near the Catholic holiday of the Virgin’s Ascension. I don’t know the date of her birth, but I think it was August 11th–much like the Juliet from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. It’s something we three Italian ladies have in common.

I don’t know a lot about my great-grandmother, but I have very vivid impressions of her in my head, either from stories I’ve heard or stories I’ve made up myself (I can’t tell the difference after a short while). I know my mother loved her very much, that she was hyper-emotive, that she was a storyteller and a crier and a scene-stager. I know that on the 10-year anniversary of her death, my grandmother (her daughter) got so drunk and had an accident that rewrote the family tree and–it has turned out–affected a lot of us deeply, in different ways.

~

I’m working on a novel right now that was originally inspired by this weird episode in my grandmother’s life, and its aftermath, so I’ve been thinking about Assunta lately. I have taken notes for this book since 2006, and have constantly set it aside in fits of frustration or insecurity because I’m not quite sure what I’m trying to say. This year, I set the month of August aside to try to finally give it flight, or at least go down fighting. It hasn’t been easy. Normally writing goes pretty quickly for me; this has not been the case these last 12 days. Sometimes I’ll work for an hour and only come out with 25 words. I am not used to this difficulty and it’s tearing me up.

I think this is where being creative is like giving birth, right? No need to complete the analogy. Preaching, choir, etc.

~

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12 Responses to birth

  1. Derek Gentry says:

    That episode sounds like a potent seed for a novel–best of luck with it!

    I think I understand what you’re going through. I’ve also been thinking about one particular story for several years, with similar frustrations in getting it written. It seems like it’s finally starting to come now, but it’s still early.

    In my case, it seems like I just haven’t been ready to tell this particular story, that I couldn’t see it clearly enough until now. (Or maybe I still can’t see it, and I’m just fooling myself!)

    • Yeah, I mean, I think the “fooling myself” factor is a BIG part of it. Part of the reason I’ve picked this project up again now is because I randomly mentioned some component pieces to a couple different people and they all went crazy for it–YOU NEED TO WRITE THIS DOWN!–etc. One of them said, “it’s clear from the way you describe it the universe and plot arc are clear and firm in your head”–which surprised me, because those were the two things I felt the most insecure about.

      I think sometimes when stories are really close to us we set up a bunch of emotional firewalls to prevent ourselves from putting them down? We don’t want to disappoint ourselves. Or something.

      Good for you for starting, Derek πŸ™‚

      • Derek Gentry says:

        That’s great! See, this is why we writers need to overcome our insecure & introverted tendencies and talk to other people from time to time.

        I always resist discussing anything I’m working on–mostly because I don’t want to bore the crap out of my friends–but sometimes I find that I get more clarity from a five minute conversation than I do from a month of solo meditation.

  2. First, a most happy birthday to you. And then, yes, me too, the beginning of a project blank page! It is when I have the most difficult time believing that I’m any sort of writer at all.

  3. Oooh I can’t believe I missed wishing you happy birthday!!! 😦 I hope the Sangria Party was lots of fun!

    The idea for your novel sounds amazing. As someone who’s been told to write about my family many times, I at least have a sense for the incredible Responsibility that can put on someone. Maybe it’s just taken you a while to gain more perspective on your family. The older I get, the more I can see my relatives as people in my own eyes, rather than through my parents’ eyes.

    Don’t fear the blank page! Every day of struggle is moving you towards that glorious day when words drip from your fingertips.

    • The thing about your perspective migrating as you get older is that it just makes things more confusing. I’m older now than my grandmother was when she made a lot of the choices I find most interesting about her life, but I don’t feel like I’m any closer to understanding them. It’s tricky.

      Yes, we must love the struggle, eh?

  4. Briony says:

    Happy birthday! I hope you had a fabulous sangria-soaked night. (I hate celelbrating my birthday – I hate being the centre of attention, I always worry whether everyone else is having a good time, and I feel guilty because people always tell me how hard it is to find me a birthday present).

    Best of luck with the novel – if it helps, I already want to read it!

  5. JES says:

    Crap. Saw this the other day and meant to come back On The Day to wish you a happy!

    Difficult is good, I think. It’s not true that the only good things in life require hard work. But it is true that hard-enough work can make just about anything good — pastries and meatloaf, health and study, music and books. Hope you know a lot of people who don’t even know you want you to write this — equal emphasis on the you and the this.

  6. Wendy says:

    Ah, crap. I missed your birthday. Did you know you share the same birthday as my daughter? So, in a sense, it was my “birth” day too. Ha! We iz connected.

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