I'm having a hard timing moving on from my first novel (although I so desperately need to). The characters are my friends:, family: I've spent years in my mind laughing with them in the kitchen as light cuts through the windows, running through the apple orchards, standing around bonfires and looking at an unforgiving sky. I know this book and all its architecture; I built that house twig by twig, stained glass window by stained glass window. I have lived in that house with these people for so, so long.
And so it's weird and a little sad to try to sell that house in any form. What's it worth? Who wants it? I've had to tidy up and make renovations and knock down some walls. I have strangers walking through it, sizing up the decorations I so carefully picked and placed. I've lit some candles and put out snacks. I want them to like their visit. I hope they want to stay, and return, and feel at home. Though I have an agent who thinks they could maybe flip it or rent it out to folks, I'm the only one who has ever had to live in it.
I'm trying to think about this on repeat as I write a new novel: I am the only one who will ever have to live in it. It will be the place I go when I have a free second, when I need an escape, when this world is too much. So, yes, I'll make it structurally sound. I don't want anyone to get hurt, and I want the layout to make sense, to flow. I will lay down floors and walls and stairs and ceilings and glow-in-the-dark stars. But I am trying to build a home not a house. Not a thing for flipping, for selling, for renting. I'm building a thing to live in.
Though I might get visitors who will stay a few hours, I'm the only one who has to be there for years and years. Me. Just me. I have to sleep and cry and storm there, and if I'm going to do all that, I better Marie Kondo the shit out of it. What sparks joy? What doesn't? How do I want it to feel?
I can build anything. Live anywhere. I can erect a tiny cottage on a lake or I can build a six story mansion on the cliffs of California if I have the stamina. I can invite anyone inside. It doesn't have to be so sad, you know? Doesn't have to feel so impossible. I have to imagine the potential. Not the sales or the market, not the interest rates. The open windows, open doors, skylights.
I am having a hard time moving on from my first novel. Moving sucks. And though I've already dreamed up the plot, the characters, the themes, I haven't really sat with myself and decided how I want the novel to feel when I live in it. Because, again, I'm the only one who will ever have to. I'm trying to imagine it now. Maybe I'll light some candles that flicker and warm, put some sunflowers in a vase on the table, pitch a hammock on the grass.
I hope friends visit. I hope strangers do, too. And I hope if I ever want to sell it and move again someone will want to buy it, but I have to stop thinking about flipping it. It has to be a home before it's a house. I had it there in my first book, home. I can have it here, too, in time, with sweat, with labor, twigs, a stained window, glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling. Open windows with a view. A wild sky. A heart that lets things in.
It's #SuicidePreventionMonth and I am no doctor so HUGE grain of salt: But I do want to say that while suicide is not a choice, ideation is a muscle. The more you think about ending things, the more possible it feels. The stronger that want grows.
Though suicide is the act of ending your life, I don't think that's always what people are seeking. "I want to die," is sometimes really "I don't want to hurt so much." It's "I want to keep going but I can't." It's "I need to rest." It's "I don't know how to do this anymore."
It's "I want things to get better but I don't think they will." My challenge to myself, and to you, is to steer these thought patterns. Change them to: I want things to get better and they could. And what would that look like? And how can I chase that? Who can help me?
I don't expect anyone to have answers (especially right now, Jesus Christ.) but try to have questions. That's enough, I swear. From Mary Oliver: "Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable."