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Storytelling

My plan for my mother’s Christmas present this year was to write her a novel. Despite her failing eyesight, she devoured books: I bought her a Kindle, which allowed her to increase the font size to an almost comical level, and an iPad, which she used to listen to audiobooks. The one year I finished NaNoWriMo, she followed along every day. It wasn’t a particularly great piece of writing, but she read it with a mother’s pride. So I wanted to do that again.

Yesterday marked three weeks since her passing. Processing this new reality is going to be a long journey. I’m not okay, but I’m okay-presenting: I can emulate a fully-functional human when I need to. I don’t want to perform that emulation for loved ones, but nobody else needs to know that I pull over to the side of the road to ugly cry or can barely manage to sleep through the night. I miss her terribly, and I will always miss her terribly.

I’m still planning on writing that novel.

Writing has always been the thing I love to do most. It’s not that I’m necessarily good at it, although I also don’t think I’m bad; it’s more that it puts me into a kind of meditative state that gives me the tools to process the world. Some people are really great social thinkers. I need to put my ideas down in words.

My grandfather, Sidney Monas, translated Crime and Punishment into English. My cousin, Sarah Dessen, is a famous and talented young adult author whose novel Along for the Ride is being adapted by Netflix. Another cousin, Jonathan Neale, has written beautiful novels and progressive non-fiction histories. I’m not looking for the literary impact or success of any of them; I just want to have the mental stillness to sit down and tell a story, and to develop the skills to do that well.

Still, the startup side of me is interested in how people get to do this full-time. The indie author DC Kalbach makes a solid salary from self-publishing on Kindle Unlimited. Elle Griffin is going to serialize her novel behind a Substack subscription. My friend Yoko Oji Kikuchi makes her living through supporters of her art on Patreon. These seem like idyllic existences to me, but also difficult: each requires a rhythm of sustained creativity to maintain.

For now, I’m lucky to be able to think about making stuff without having to worry about its financial sustainability - or even if it’s good. (To be clear, I hope that it’s good.) I’ve got my draft going in Ulysses, and I’m making solid progress. Who knows what will happen next - and in lots of ways, it doesn’t matter, as long as I keep working on it. This will be the last you hear about it until you read it.

The one thing that does matter, if I’m truly honest with myself, is this: I just wish its intended audience was here to read it.

 

Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash