My mother was a gifted storyteller and poet. She wrote amazing monologues and dialogues using in the voices of women from the Bible. She'd run retreats and start each session dressed in character; her dramatic words brought tears, laughter and healing. One piece I loved had my sister as Mary and my Mom as Elizabeth (Mary's older cousin who birthed a child in her old age). The piece starts when they are both pregnant and ends after the birth of both children. It was a great way to bring the Christmas story to life.
Another year, she worked with the kids in our inner city church to write a modern version of the Christmas story. My brother played the slum lord who told Mary and Joseph, "There's no room in the apartment building, but you can crash in the garage for the night".
As much work as she DID produce, there was one work that she never finished. I read this article today and thought of my Mom. How, if she were still alive, she'd read it and self-flagellate herself. I literally can't remember a time when she wasn't talking about her "Chelama Tale". She read us a chapter when we were little and it was GREAT. There were many, many, many times when she'd look around our messy house and sigh, "If only this were clean, I could write." Dad would use her computer and tell her that he'd get off whenever she wanted to use it, but never understood that she needed a sacred, blank space that was waiting for her whenever she found the energy and courage to attack the void.
I understand that need. When I was a fine art major I spent as much time cleaning and organizing my studio as I did painting. Before I cook at home, I have to clean the kitchen and have everything in it's proper space. The organizing phase is part of the ritual descent from logical left brained activity toward creative, right-brained connectivity. If I'm in a creative mode like painting or cooking, any need to organize snaps me back to left-brained mode.
After my mother died, I eagerly searched the house to find her notes and scribbles of the Chelama Tale. It was supposed to be an autobiography of her life set in a fantasy/spiritual allegory world. In the arrogant confidence of a 20-something woman, I thought I could take what she'd started and finish it. Build something from the ashes of her wishes and early death. When I found her stash, I was crushed. There was the chapter she'd read us, a few notes, and many, many empty folders. Waiting for the work that never filled them.
It changed me. Now, if I want to do a project, I might let it simmer for a while, I might talk a while before doing it, but I don't hold the project over the head of people around me. I don't make excuses for what I 'need to do to give myself permission to write'. It's the Yoda wisdom, "Do or do not do, there is no try."
I have a novel that my Grandfather wrote to entertain us. It's a GREAT plot with wonderful characters but told in a non-empathetic, matter-of-fact writing style that isn't appealing. One item on my life list is to take that skeleton and add the muscles, skin and tear ducts. I started to do it in college and made some wonderful progress, but it was lost when that computer was retired. I know it's in me and somehow, I know it will happen, but the time is not now.
Do you have a 'list' in your head? Where are you in your progress toward checking items off? Or have you lived while surviving someone else's list?