Those of you who follow me on social media (all two of you) know that I'm rather expressive about my drafting woes. I refer to this as "flailing" (see previous post), and it's an important part of my process. The truth is this: Writing is really, really hard, and flailing is a coping mechanism, for me at least. Then, too, is the pressure of writing a new book as a soon-be-published author. (I'm not complaining, mind you, because LIFE GOALS.) The book that sold? I had five years to write that book. This new book? Yeah, I need to get it finished a lot faster than that if I ever want to put it out into the real world.
Writing is a slog, and trying to keep a 300+ page document fresh and interesting and also organized and logical can be a tad overwhelming at times. When I find myself flailing to the point where I can barely set pen to paper, it helps to remind myself why wanted to write this book in the first place.
The book currently known to no one but myself as THE SOULSWIFT began with a piece of music, specifically "The Lark Ascending" by Ralph Vaughn Williams. Inspired by one of George Meredith's poems, Vaughn Williams composed "The Lark Ascending" in the midst of World War I. It's an excruciatingly beautiful piece of music that attempts to transcend the horrors of war by capturing the simplicity of a bird singing in flight. I set out to write a book that feels like this composition, full of longing and beauty that is so visceral as to be almost unbearable. I listened to it over and over and over, mostly in the car to and from work. (My recording is performed by The Academy of St. Martin in the Fields conducted by Sir Neville Marriner, in case you were curious.) After about a week of this, as I was pulling into the parking lot at my job, I imagined a moment--not even a scene, just one action--that felt exactly like "The Lark Ascending" to me.
Quite frankly, what I saw in my mind was, um, kind of weird. I had to ask myself, "Whoa. What the hell would cause that to happen?" I understood, instinctively, that this was going to be the end of the novel, but that's as far as I got initially. I spent weeks with that question. The answer finally came to me when I thought about it in the context of my audience, namely, my seventeen-year-old self.
When I was in high school, I didn't grapple much with the whole I-want-to-fit-in thing. I didn't fit in, and I didn't want to fit in. My friends were quirky and fun, and I found the popular kids boring. I had zero interest in hanging out with cool people, and even less interest in being like them. I spent high school waiting to go to college where I knew I'd fit in just fine. (I was totally right about that. I may have been painfully awkward, but had some wisdom at a young age.) Aside from the occasional bout of unrequited love (always, always unrequited) the issue with which I grappled in high school was religion.
I went to Catholic school, kindergarten through twelfth grade. All of my friends were Catholic. I lived in a Catholic neighborhood. I come from an enormous family of really tall Catholic people. I grew up in a Catholic petri dish. And look, I'm glad of it. This is not an indictment of Catholicism. The brand of Catholicism I grew up with was progressive and kind, and to this day, many of my best friends are either Catholic or, like me, lapsed Catholics. The problem was that when I hit the end of junior year, I started to doubt some things that didn't make sense to me, and pretty soon I was doubting a lot of things, and by the end of my senior year, I doubted all the things, not just my own belief system but all belief systems. Everything. None of it rang true for me.
When you are living in a homogenous world, surrounded by people who belief in one thing, and you don't believe that thing? That's rough on a teen. Even if I didn't care about fitting in, I was deeply invested in figuring out my place in the world, and at the time, it felt like the world didn't really have a place for me, that I belonged nowhere. In light of my teenaged philosophical struggle, I began to answer the question, "Whoa. What the hell would cause that to happen?" in a spiritual/religious context, and I finally had my answer.
I'm writing this book for Seventeen-Year-Old Megan, the book I wish I'd read when I felt isolated and alone and full of shame and fear because I did not believe what everyone around me understood and accepted as absolute truth. I hope it becomes a book for any teens who have a hard time figuring out where they belong in a world that doesn't seem to have a place for them.