I sit in my window seat, afraid to leave my Trélex cell and the hope it gave me. I have numerous options to explore on my last day as Writer’s Desk Resident, but I find myself drawn to this room, this garden view, the still construction cranes, the clock tower that chimes every hour twice, the rumble of thunder over the Jura. The rain ushered in a coolness. It whispered, “Stay in and savor what you’ve been given.”
I embarked on this residency with months of pharmaceutical sludge clogging my brain, stifling my heart, making me doubt everything I once believed myself capable of. I realize nobody reads that sentence and feels sorry for me.
To other writers, I’ve hit a list. Why do I need help? To my friends, I keep my struggles hidden to the point that one chewed me out when he understood the magnitude of my disease. To the establishment, I’m an outsider with no pedigree who has the nerve to try for things reserved for the anointed, the celebrity, the elite. To the average reader, I’m nobody. How many Americans can spend five weeks in Switzerland writing? So I should shut my privileged mouth already and smile through my blind spot and be grateful I’m fairy-dusted with the means to follow my dream.
Here’s my reality.
When I entered this lions den, I believed the lions would win. On the outside, I make things happen. I report every yes with gusto and glee without giving an exhaustive rundown of the crippling rejections I receive, the trolling of my work because I fired a worthless publicist, the number of times I have to prove I hit a list, the frequency of direct laughter in my face for daring to seek my place at the table, or the ways people try to use me.
When I started this journey, I was mentally tough. I’m not saying rejection and disappointment didn’t impact me, but I was Wonder Woman walking into no mans land, swatting bullets like pesky flies. Now, I will never be well.
Knowing that worked its way into the crevices of my psyche. It bonded with a drug cocktail to shatter my belief in myself. Maybe I really do write like an amateur. Perhaps I don’t belong at this conference/in this library/on this panel/in this group. Why did anyone even give a failure like me a residency? I see my numbers. I know how little anyone cares about my work. These thoughts pummeled me every day for almost a year. Oh, I got up at first. Kept going. Faked my own invincibility. But I’m not Wonder Woman. I bleed. I doubt. I fear. And I fail.
For months, I couldn’t create, because everything I made lacked the razor’s edge of risk, the “who cares where this story fits” wonder of experimentation, the “why bother when nobody cares whether I ever write another book” thoughts of the already defeated. Magic always existed for me. When I outgrew Emmaline’s magical take on the world, hope became my magic.
Hope is possibility.
When hope dies, I die. In the past year, I almost died. Almost.
But in this lions den in a little-known Swiss village, I slaughtered the big cats guarding the door. With nothing to do but write, I spent two solid days crying, a week staring at a screen with a soundtrack of the reasons to give up, to heed the obvious instruction of the Universe, to release the tail feathers of hope.
And once I mourned everything I’ve endured on this frightful road, I opened my computer and wrote what came. 60,000 words in two weeks. A torrent I couldn’t stifle or suffocate or shut off.
Once again, I hope these people will change the way you see history and humanity. I hope you already want to meet them, and can’t stop yourself from telling everyone you meet to read. I hope I’ll be given a seat at the table, and the Wonder never ceases.
Switzerland means hope to me.
It crawled into my sagging soul. Accepted me when I believed I didn’t belong. It quieted my anxieties and simplified my life. I’m grateful I was able to see.
The book I’m working on now is a sequel to the others in the Nowhere Series so if you haven’t read the first two – go get them now!