Thursday, November 02, 2006

Meet "Faye Lawrence"

New York

I've had a simply lovely day.
In the past, if anyone had asked me how I spent my day, I would have made excuses about what I didn't do. "I should have run or at least walked. I only stretched." Or "I should have left the apartment for some fresh air, or to get things for the post marathon party I'm having". Or " I should have made sure I had everything I need for Betsy to stay here."

But today, I didn't make any excuses. Today, I just wrote all day. All day. Imagine. I sat at my desk watching the blue sky out the sliver of a window that makes this space so cozy, and wrote and wrote and wrote.

I began a class, Fiction I, at NYU three weeks ago with a wonderful woman, probably in her mid to late 60s. She's got grey, kinky hair that stops at her collar, wears comfortable clothes to class, wears little or no makeup and has eyes that speak of pain mixed with hope. When she calls your name, she flashes a wide grin that changes her, looks directly at you, and makes you feel like you are the only person in the room for that moment.
When you read your precious manuscript that you've poured over for hours and hours to be sure it isn't stupid or simple or sophomoric, she somehow transforms your work into something universal. "Oh, Mary, the way you constructed that whole scene about the pilgrimage is a terrific metaphor. I want to hear a little bit more. Read some more." Well, when she says,"read some more", she might as well be saying that I've just won the Booker Award!

The class consists of eight: six women and two men each as diverse as the material that they write. Nate is a musician who wanted to find his voice in fiction. Arnold, a retired ad man, writes movingly about World War II and his experiences in the Loire Valley late in the war. Yvonne literally arrived from her native Ireland 24 hours before our first class, and told us about her decision to spend six months in New York to explore her creativity. And the stories go on.

Peggy began class last week talking about plot. Then, she gave us a chance to read scenes from one act plays that she had written--wonderful plays that were funny or poignant or both. It was such fun to be an actor again, reminiscent of my high school days that were filled with acting.

She sent us home with the assignment to write a scene for a play. I won't go into all the details, but somehow after months of feeling stuck in my writing ( except for this blog ), I felt free to just write drafts--not perfect pieces. Just drafts.

Inspired by the photo above, I "found" a character, a buxom '40s radio show singer, who I named Faye Lawrence. All of a sudden I could see her walking into Rosie O'Grady's Saloon on a Friday night waiting for a blind date. And...I wrote a scene from a play about Faye and her possible beau.

I don't know if it's good. I do know that there are parts of it that came from somewhere else. I think that's why I keep writing.
I'm certain that I won't become Eudora Welty or Willa Cather. But who knows what lies beneath this lifetime of experiences?

In my household, the idea of choosing creative endeavors as a vocation wasn't really kosher. My mother encouraged my acting, singing, writing. But when I announced that I wanted to be an actor, I sent her right to bed with a migraine. ( Almost as funny was telling my father a year later that I wanted to be a nun. He literally went through a red light. )

If I had it to do again, perhaps, with a different set of circumstances, I would have loved to have slogged along trying to write for a living--at least for awhile-- instead of more traditional ( and certainly more stable ) professions that I did undertake: First, nursing and healthcare; then advertising/marketing, and teaching; finally medical ethics. It seems I was constantly moving toward the ineffable, the places where I was more likely to do what I love to do most---create things out of nothing.

So, Faye. Rock On. I'm dying to know whether you get the guy! I'm hoping the answer is somewhere in my subconscious. What a ride!


1 comment:

Becca said...

I love this post ... writing all day ... and you are an excellent writer. And I love the idea that first you were going to act, then become a nun, now write - there seems to be a lot in common there! Thinking about you as the marathon nears! Good luck!