Toronto weather is undecided. Yesterday the city was teased by sunshine and the smell of defrosting earth. When I awoke this morning, a film of white covered by backyard. It was like that ( I was away) last week. March 22nd was delightful, I was told. A real spring. The tulips were sprouting. The following day my girlfriend sent me a picture on my phone –Toronto was having another snowstorm. Schizoid weather makes it difficult to plan whether or not I should uncover the backyard furniture and start putting out the planting pots, but that’s the kind of city I live in.
My house is crying throughout it all. There is a big leak in the brick wall out front. The walls are buckling and water drips out of the brick like tears. I have a patio that is over my garage. It’s too narrow to be a real patio — it’s more like an awning — and the drainage is bad. My gut wrenches wondering if I have to tear down a whole wall and put an iron fence up instead. I ache over the possible expense. I’m hoping that I, and my wall, can survive the thaw with a cheaper remedy.
Like the weather, I’m undecided about my writing. One day I want to just write about experience and let it rip. I’m currently in love with memoir. I want to write about disability memoir as I’m writing my own. My mother approached me yesterday about my Italian dream blog post: “I’m a little worried about your blog writing,” she said, carefully searching my face. “What if someone gets mad at you?” Our previous laughter stopped cold.
“Mom,” I said as I put my glass of water gently down on my cracked counter-top. “People have already been mad at me. I just can’t stop writing. If I do, I won’t be able to breathe.” I realized what I said was true — not just some dramatic statement for the sake of winning a point. If I have talent or not, it’s beside the point. I need to write, and I get enough emails from readers to at least support me and keep going. I’m not ashamed to say that I gobble this feedback like a starving person — so grateful for it…thank you. Writing is lonely.
Her comment, though, made me briefly think of not writing at all. My stomach tightened and I grew anxious. I’ve been writing since grade five, when my five-foot feminist teacher believed it was in me to write. When I was a teenager, I spent nights sitting on my bed with the dim bed-side table-lamp writing reams of pages to a girlfriend who lived abroad — mostly about boys. When I’m alone, still, I’m always writing in notebooks, mainly on my bed before Adam wakes. I write in them every morning. Is this what makes me a writer? It’s such an odd self-ascribed title. Yes, I’ve been published a few times, but every piece of writing is like starting a new venture.
Writing about myself and my life is like digging in my garden and showing you the dirt as well as the flowers. It can be unnerving as I try so hard not to cringe at that dirty feeling on my hands. Sometimes I have doubts. They are probably good doubts when figuring out how to represent others fairly as well as myself. All characters, in fiction and non fiction, are complicated.
Wason Choy, a Canadian writer once said in a class I attended, that everyone who comes into contact with a writer should know that they are somehow going to be a part of our story. He didn’t say it quite like that, but Wason has written a lot about his Chinese-Canadian family. In the New York Writer’s Workshop’s The Portable MFA in Creative Writing, it says the following about memoir in “Why You Should Write About Your Unhappy Family”:
One of the most common excuses for people not writing the book they want to write — usually involving their family — is that it would hurt someone. Writing a book always hurts someone — preeminently the writer, who grows poorer and more alienated. And banging the head on the desk and devouring the contents of the refrigerator don’t do a lot for self-esteem. Writing is hard work, and we always want to avoid it unless it’s absolutely necessary. Obviously though, you need to apply common sense and a sense of empathy.
There are many choices a writer must decide along the way. I guess today I’m banging my head on my desk and isolate myself, yet again, in a 10×10 room with this computer. It’s raining outside now and my wall is bawling. The work continues.