To fling my arms wide
In some place of the sun,
To whirl and to dance
Till the white day is done.
Then rest at cool evening
Beneath a tall tree
While night comes on gently,
Dark like me-
That is my dream!
Excerpt from Dream Variations, Sweet Honey In The Rock
©1976 Flying Fish Records
Writing is something that I’ll do for free, hence my dedication to submitting a monthly article to Garden Spices Magazine, an online publication dedicated to embracing diversity. Writing regularly for this magazine provides another outlet for my talents; an impetus for the development of discipline; and my super bonus, is an opportunity to examine my largely unexamined life. Throughout my life, writing has been the thread that has served as the connective link to my humanity and my spirituality.
As I have pondered the notion of closure I learned that one of its many definitions is a “sense of resolution or conclusion at the end of an artistic work.” This certainly clarifies the ghost that haunts me every time I stare at a blank computer screen. As I pause for inspiration, I peer into the creative abyss, with an urge to tell a story that is tangled in the labyrinth of my mind’s creative process. The urge to write nags at me like the wail of an infant with a wet diaper!
Reflecting upon my writing journey, I am painfully aware that half a dozen manuscripts and book proposals lay unfinished, and that I have at least that many half-baked ideas for novels, self-help books and even screenplays. What- am- I-waiting – for? You tell me! My ideas, puff up like popcorn kernels bouncing in a heated pan, and just as quickly as they surface, they embed themselves in the warm buttery corners of my mind; waiting to be explored and released. Could it possibly be that my inability to finish or bring closure to my many writing projects signals fear lurking my consciousness?
Lately, I’ve begun to ask myself whether I write just enough to affirm its importance to me, but not enough to allow my creative voice to burst into its fullest flower. I mean, if my books are never quite finished, I certainly don’t have to face my fears of them not being good enough; I’m simply not finished! The fact that these products are unfinished does not for one instant diminish the fact that while they live on my psychic backburner, I have the hypothetical potential of authoring a best seller and achieving my dream of joining the ranks of those elite writers whose works have graced the New York Times Best Sellers List. Which is, for me, the Holy Grail of literary closure.
While the creative aspect of spinning an idea through a web of possibilities and pulling together a compelling narrative enthralls me, it is the editing, reediting and refining aspect of the writing process that literally makes my stomach churn and causes the earth to tremble beneath my feet. The grueling editing process forces decisions that question my vision and my willingness to make the appropriate compromises necessary to bring to fruition a well-regarded publishable work. If I were to describe the editing process in one word, that word is –ambivalence.
With each book I’ve self-published, at that moment of commitment, when I finally press ‘send,’ and release the final, carefully, edited version of my manuscript through the layout process and finally to the printer, I am literally overcome with self-doubt. It is then that I struggle against wanting to scrap the project and self-medicate, grab a cocktail. Although self-publishing is the route I chose, and I would not that change that decision for an instant, I truly long for the validation that accompanies being a member of a mainstream publishing houses’ “stable” of authors.
As an author, the authentic feeling of closure comes only in the presence of two factors. First, I need to feel that I have said what I intended to say in the best possible way. And secondly, and this is really critical, I crave the affirmation of a reader who is neither a friend nor family member. There must be an objective judgment of my works’ merits. Until then everything feels ambiguous and questionable. Once those conditions are present, my psyche finally lets the work go and I get a sense of finality, of closure.
– Susan D. Peters
Susan D. Peters, aka, Ahnydah (ah-NIE-dah) Rahm, brings a wealth of experience gained as an expatriate living in West Africa. Her memoir Sweet Liberia, Lessons from the Coal Pot, received the Black Excellence Award for Non-Fiction from the African American Alliance of Chicago and the Mate E. Palmer award for Non-Fiction from the Illinois Press Women’s Association. Broken Dolls, Susan’s second book, represents her foray into the mystery market and is the first of a series featuring Detective Joi Sommers as its heroine. Her work is featured in three anthologies, Baring It All, the Ins and Outs of Publishing, Signed, Sealed, Delivered … I’m Yours, a contemporary romance anthology, and The Anthology of the Illinois Woman’s Press Association. Buy her books online and at www.SusanDPeters.com.
Photo credit: Sweet Honey in the Rock, www.npr.org