Wednesday, April 20, 2011
I am a Butterfly Hunter
Back from this years writing conference, internally I am a jumble, as usual. Here is part of a post I wrote last year at this time (after the writer's conference) but never posted. It is about how I can't imagine anyone ever agreeing to publish anything I write, as there wouldn't be a market for it. And how much harder that makes all the struggles I continually encounter with trying to learn the craft of writing, and of hoping for the art of it.
so here is that post-
What is on my mind at the moment is the kind of stories that I write. I feel out of sync with the world. Seems everyone else is talking about and writing: glamor, gossip, griping action, lust, molestation, incest, abuse, drugs, rape, war, bullying, affairs, murder, intrigue, espionage, explosions, all that good stuff, that isn't stuff that I write about. And for the most part isn't stuff that I like reading about. My work is softer, more sentimental. It doesn't bang, it whispers. I know there are a lot of other kinds of stories out there too, and that even in the stories with that harder stuff those things mostly aren't the point of the stories, they just happen in them. But when they talk about the market and the intended audience, and who your reader would be, it doesn't seem like there would be anyone for me. For my stories. (My stuff isn't all dancing bunnies in sunshine. Or I would focus on writing for young children. There is a foe in death, loss is a villain for me. But my world is pastel.)
So I am trying to work this through, thinking okay, I am going to spend the rest of my life struggling to learn how to sing this little song, this little song I am always overhearing. And my joy will have to lie solely in getting it right; finding the tune, the cadence, and being able to carry it; in resonating with it, but not in ever sharing the song with someone else. Because there isn't anyone else who will ever be interested in hearing it. That's a major bummer. Because while writing is a personal journey, mostly a solitary action, there is a pull to connect with others through the page. A story journey wants to be traveled by more than one. You feel it longing to be known. That is what it asks of you, to be revealed.
Perhaps I will spend my whole life obsessed with capturing this elusive butterfly, extraordinarily beautiful to me; that beckons me to traverse rough terrain into unknown kingdoms, where I often get lost. When I started tracking it (almost 12 years ago), I didn't know how long it would take; I knew it would take time and effort, but as I've followed it deeper into the jungle I've come to realize it could take years more, decades; that I might die without ever having captured it. But still I've held steady to my hope of netting it, of that moment of attaining, of fully seeing and knowing it exists; when it has been made real because it always was real. In my hands, in me. Possessing it, having it possess me; fluttering wings against my chest.
It is not the cost of pursuit that mangles me now. Because I had always considered it a worthy endeavor. What twists and tears at my resolve, is that the accomplishment, the wondrous moment I have imagined, dreamed of, gilded with magic, the capture of that exotic butterfly, will be meaningless to anyone but me. My prize, my magical ethereal manifestation, if ever attained, will just be a shoulder shrug, and a, "I don't get it." "Why did she bother." to other people. "Who the heck cares about that butterfly. It's not interesting, and certainly not pretty. It is different I suppose..but so what? There is nothing worthwhile in that"
So that is the space that I've fallen into, the one where I lose all faith, feel the pursuit is stupid and pointless. Why bother? No one would care, even if I managed to do this thing, no one would be interested. But the thing is no matter how disheartening thinking that way can be, ultimately it always shifts, as I remember: I am a butterfly hunter. That is what I do. Not because others are sending me out on a mission. Not because anyone other than me has an interest in my capturing any butterfly, let alone this one. I follow butterflies because it is the way my soul was weaved. And I chase this particular butterfly, because it is the one that I've seen in my dreams; it is the one that sings to me in whispers, close enough that I can almost hear. The vibration of which I can feel humming within, like a little piece of it, a torn fragment of wing, echoes the same song from inside me. So to sit motionless in a pit, net cast aside, body sunken into the mud, would just be stupid.
end of prt. 1