Friday, March 23, 2012

WRITING A BOOK

THE DARK SIDE


How does one begin to paint a picture in black when one has been using a palette of green to blue to red and every hue in between? Shades of grey edged in somber coal, murky and thick with emotion. I sit at my keyboard where optimism normally nudges my fingers across the letters like one of those old Ouija Boards, mysterious forces that always seem to know the secrets hidden deep inside. I spend my life cheering others up; I write in order to find the positive of any situation, no matter how dark, a kind of therapy or catharsis, always able to stand up and walk away from the computer feeling just a bit better. But as I sit at my desk, chin nestled heavily in the palm of my upturned hand, or my body curved into the corner of the sofa pondering over the words, the sentences, the paragraphs that spill out of my brain and my heart and onto the pristine white document in front of me, I wonder what I should write about, how deeply to delve.

Every life is touched by despair, personal failure, death of a loved one, anguish and sorrow that shape who we are, if ever so gently. Melancholy that hovers over us, day in and day out, smile smeared across our face, a constant battle with our own worse demons no matter how brave a face we present to the outside world. I have been filling pages with bits and pieces of stories – my story – that will one day be organized and filled in to create a whole. A tough project under any circumstances, yet what continues to elude me is the angle: Where do I begin? How much do I cover? Is this just an enchanting jaunt through the exciting moments of my life? A humorous account of my decision to drop everything and run away to Paris? A romance to end all romance stories of my marriage to a dashing young Frenchman, just another fairytale of American girl escaping to the City of Lights to find love and passion, an intriguing tale offered up on a rose-strewn silver platter of Champagne and caviar?


Or do I go further, dig deeper, tell the “True Life Narrative” of why someone would run away to Paris, how living in this magnificent country may be romantic and enchanting indeed, filled with silliness and humorous faux pas yet scattered with tears and more difficult than others like to portray in popular fiction? I have written in a previous post about how my life is truly incomplete without the sadness that allows me to appreciate how wonderful the happiness is. Touching on my own brother’s illness and death and the gaping hole it has left in my life, the hurt I feel every single day is only part of it. The pain of watching a child hurt and angry, his mistrust keeping him from living his life and reaching his true potential is excruciating agony that has kept us awake at night and tormented during the day. But that is still not enough. The dark tunnel that I have walked through day after day, year after year, yearning for a glimpse of the brilliant light off in the distance that never comes, slogging through mud, feet heavy as in a dream… does one write about this? Devote a chapter to the obscure, bleak moments of a life, those moments that in fact led to where I am now?

There are things that I have spoken of with no one, not even my husband to whom I am an open book. Maybe I have simply been looking for an excuse to share the sordid details with someone, anyone; possibly after keeping these dark secrets buried deep inside of me for all of these years there is an inherent need to purge myself of these tortuous demons. But is there a place for this in any story I could tell? But if truth be told, my truth, then how can I possibly write bits and pieces of my life without speaking of the essential, of what makes me me? Ah, painting a picture in brilliant reds, feminine pinks, soothing blues, cheerful yellows, by necessity there needs be spots of black, streaks of grey hovering at the edges; silent ghosts and chimeras peeping around the joy, laughter sometimes muted by silent tears.


And why do I write at all? To what purpose? I love the physical, the intellectual, the emotional act of writing; like a joyous, rambunctious childhood game or a very-adult sensual experience, it is exhilarating, exciting, even liberating; frustration and dissatisfaction transformed through concentration and hard work, blood, sweat and tears! into the perfect phrase, the perfect sentiment, an idea captured in black and white just as I imagined it. Yet the goal, that intended purpose, is hidden behind all of those descriptive, perfect words, sneaking in unexpectedly, surprising the reader with meaning. Thus giving this author an even deeper sense of satisfaction and purpose.

And why write a book at all if it is not to convey a message, weighty with substance? Every book must have some significance if one doesn’t want to fall into the domain of fluff. I ask myself these questions as my fingers fly across the keyboard. I am a writer with a passion for writing about food and culture, a goal to create pieces for magazines, so why this yearning to write a story of my life, or at least convey bits and pieces of that life, sandwiched between two covers? These questions grow larger each and every day as this craving grows stronger, as the thoughts and ideas take shape in my head, as my goal becomes clearer and now it has all spilled over onto my humble little blog, a blog that will slowly transform with my own transformation. Life, after all, is a feast.

And then we return to the question of darkness.

30 comments:

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Writing is like a therapy! I find it soothing. It makes me think and it helps me put my thoughts in perspective...

I don't think one should only write about happy things as life is made of many shades of grey too. It would then be fake. Reality is not like a Hollywood comedy.

Cheers,

Rosa

Barbara | Creative Culinary said...

Oh Jamie, it's sort of amazing how I have been wrestling with some similar emotions. I many not have the goal of writing a book, though many have said I should; about the story of triumph over a life littered with betrayal and sorrow. I believe I have only mentioned once that my mother was an alcoholic but that one word can not begin to illustrate the ramifications on my life that affect me still today.

I do wonder if having these darker stories and keeping them silent makes us less honest with our audience. I don't feel dishonest so much as I think they would not want to know; to be bothered or burdened with my personal heartache. However, if the effort to keep them silent becomes our burden and makes us feel less than honest, how can sharing those depths be anything but good; maybe make us more real?

Whatever road you take, you know I'm there with you for the journey my friend.

Jill Colonna said...

The domaine of fluff? I'm not going to be melancholy on that one. You write something on your fascinating life and it will fly, Jamie!
I'm supposed to be writing something just now. On a brilliantly sunny afternoon. Best friend is on the golf course. Rats. Complete blockage. Perhaps I should take that bath like pensive bubbly girl in your funny photos. Your writing always flows!

Robin E. H. Ove said...

It is because you can paint with word dear Jamie that the story will unfold. Generous with the strokes of darkness to reveal the splashes of colors bright, reds, pinks and blues. That is the "great substance" your story will echo the sincerity and genuineness of your journeys as do these posts. Write on dear one!

Ilva said...

I'm pretty tired of all this keeping up appearances I find on the web, it doesn't make any of us feeling any better does it? Apart from the dishonesty of it all, what kind of place has this become if we can't tell the truth about how we feel and see the world. So let the spectrum go from light to dark to light again with all the shades in between! <3<3

Emma said...

At least this book gives you all of these options to ponder and choose from. That too is a feast, and a wonderful thing.

I've been trying to write some scientific articles for much longer than I should admit to, and I've only just begun. There are no options for me, no sad stories or glorious moments to recall. I'd like to get past these horrid things so that I can get to the good stuff, the writing that begs for thought and reflection.

bunkycooks said...

You need to write about and share whatever has happened in your life that you feel comfortable with. There is no right or wrong answer to this because we are all so different in how we deal with our past. As you begin to write, I am certain you will know in your heart what is right for you.

Kate at Serendipity said...

Jamie, I love this post. Sometimes I try to explain to someone what it's like to live in another country, another culture, in another language. What it's like to live with people who have different cultural references, who don't know what it means when you say "you're not in Kansas anymore, Toto."

It's an exhilarating experience, but sometimes it's a lonely one too. Sometimes I try to explain what it's like and I fail. But I keep trying.

I love the analogy of color here. As a painter, I learned that the only way you can paint light is to surround it with dark. (In watercolor anyhow) Paintings without enough dark are wishy-washy and look washed out and boring. We need the dark.

And do you know how you make black? You mix colors. Red and green. Orange and blue. Yellow and violet. Complementary colors. When you mix them together you get black. Dark. It's the colors that give us the dark and the dark that gives us the light. We need all of them to tell the story.

So write your book, and put the darks in there. And if you need a proofreader put me down first on your list.

Hugs to you and JP from Dan and me.

Alessio Fangano said...

I may sound trivial when I say that a book is nothing less than a meal.
We would soon be bored if all was sweet and gooey. We got teeth to bite, to chew the wilderness out there and inside us.
A little sprinkle of chili pepper, another of cinnamon; a treacle of dark sweet molasses may find its place in there too.
Every bite a new sensation, every page a new angle.
Life in 360 degrees, how it is supposed to be lived and enjoyed. After all, what good is the figurative power of writing if we can't go behind the canvas to experience its rough structure? :-)

Barbara said...

Jamie I have always thought a good writer is the one who is the open book, sharing the good and the bad.

Have you read Tara Weaver's (Tea and Cookies) book? She shares the black parts of her life. I've always loved her writing and have such admiration for her after reading her book.

Hugs to you.

Maureen @ Orgasmic Chef said...

Life is the same for everyone. We all understand the pain you speak of and will love what you write. Your life is filled with joys and sadness and we can all learn from that.

Ivy said...

You are such a talented writer Jamie that it would be a pity if you didn't take advantage of it. I wish I had a tiny granule of your talent. You don't necessarily have to share personal experiences but I hope you do find your way.

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

I know the feeling Jamie. I didn't know where to start, end and include with my book. The hardest part for me was knowing how much of one thing to cover as opposed to something else!

Sam @ My Carolina Kitchen said...

I see you as a painter with words instead of paint. Thanks for sharing with us. I encourage you to write a book. I think you have one of the best blog titles out there. You are right - life IS a feast.
Sam

Sally - My Custard Pie said...

Brilliant first chapter - can't wait to read the rest :)

Rossella said...

As soon as I read the title of your post, I decided that i must read it.
Write a book, my life goal since childhood.
You post is so full of emotion, real life feelings,every day struggles, human open questions...
Write a blog, write a book and live: so difficult (at least to me) combine all.
I really hope you can write the best book you desire, the one able to communicate your world.
At the moment I fight with plot and action, after years for learning how to write dialogues. You are better than me, I read you blog :)

Elle said...

Jamie, I think the hardest part is probably just sitting down and starting. After you do that, the progression will happen. And no matter which stories you decide to tell, your journey will be one that keep the reader interested. Life is full of ups and downs--for anyone to expect yours to be any different is just silly.

tasteofbeirut said...

Interesting and your way with words is admirable, as the French say; go ahead, describe the dark and ugly; only special people with a lot of courage can do that.

WiseMóna said...

Jamie,
My book is filled with all the bad stuff and a few shiny moments of the happy stuff that make it all worth while
Write from the heart. Don't hold out. Your editor will guide you in what to keep and what to let go. Can't wait xx

Lana said...

Jamie, nobody can color our world with such beautiful shades of pinks, yellows, and greens like you do without knowing the darkest hues of black. I am wrestling with similar thoughts, and even though our abysses might not have been the same, the black hole is always there and each day I fight not to fall in.
One day I will have to write about it, one day when it stops being so raw. Because my story would not be mine without it. I will be like a river closed in by a dam until the day I gather the courage to let my black out.
You are an artist and no matter what you write about, your words touch so many, inspire, motivate, and encourage. In the end, you will know if you are ready to let the darkness seep out of your heart, its poison diluted by being in the light that surrounds you.
I love you and your words, my friend:)

Nicole said...

I've come to realize that everyone suffers and in fact it seems to be what shapes us the most. I no longer tell anyone that time heals wounds because after 22 years since my mother's very early death, it's still just as much a part of me. And the more I look around, suffering comes in many shapes and sizes. Even the people who have made it to their mid life relatively unscathed, are truly not immune to this fact.
And change and transformation are vital to keep us alive I think, so your searchings will surely come to whatever you make of them. And keep on feasting! There are many reasons to do so.

Janine said...

not to sound cliched, but the sorrows and bad experiences in life do make one savor the good experiences no? I still don't write as openly as i would on my blog like you do, but I hope one day to be able to share what's me me too :)

mlaiuppa said...

Why must a book be weighty with substance? Seems to me that is self-imposed by the writer.

A purpose, yes.

Weighty with substance? Depends.

Fresh Local and Best said...

That cloud of melancholy and that tug of war between it and the yellow streaks of sunshine is all too familiar with me. I think that you need to write as much of it as you can bear. None of this is easy and it can get quite messy, but in doing so I hope you will find what will help you best deal with your demons. We all have them.

Deeba PAB said...

It's not a book if it isn't real Jamie, and life has been kind and unkind to all of us. Whats a book that is just sweet ... too sickly sweet after a point? Throw in the 'spice', the bitter, the sweet ...and in the end I am sure we will all gobble the book up. Some in this world were meant to write; you are one of those. Waiting impatiently to see you in print!! Hugs!

Lisa said...

I never considered myself a writer, just a 'talker' in type. Simply put, I write like I talk. Little did I know it would become something I looked forward to - it soothes me, even if I embarrass myself and others snark. Trust me, there's more where that came from - and it 'ain't all pretty.

I've read blogs where everything is sunshine and rainbows. That's all great and good, but I prefer real life, and real life isn't all sunshine and rainbows. Your post hit the nail on the head. Beautifully written and fantastic read a always.

Rambling Tart said...

Big hug to you, Jamie. I'm so glad you're working through these things, filtering your life through the person you are now, finding words and fears and doubts and inspiration. I know you'll find the angle you need, the stories you want to tell and the ones you want to keep safe in your own memory. XO

Javelin Warrior said...

I hope you do pen a book Jamie - I would be in line to buy it :) However, finding the right voice or the right theme or the right organization for the book may just unfold as you forge ahead...

And as much as weighty meaningful prose can be a fantastic read, I personally have a great love for the "fluff" that provides escape, fantasy and glimpses of inspiration. Perhaps the fluff is trashed by the literary community, but that's never deterred me ;)

Magic of Spice said...

You are painter with words Jamie...the things expressed here are so true, and everyone should see that there is so much more to life and expression than just the glitter and smiles.
Would love to see you write a book!

Nuts about food said...

This question about how much to say, how much to reveal in a blog is what I battle with every day. I am a fiercely private person and often do not share even with friends the grey and black in my life. But you come to a point where you feel you need to share things, whether in a book or in a blog, with your readers to make it feel true. Because life isn't all beignets, macarons, pink and red.

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