In every book I read about the artist life, one thing in common is the idea that it takes courage to do it. Especially when you’re bold enough to tell the truth. And the truth makes the best art.
I remember how exhilarating and draining it was to write my novel Letters on Balboa Island. I played my Bryan Ferry album over and over again, putting me in the mood. Many writers have spoken of those scenes that break you into a million sobs. This came close. When my mother read the first chapter, she demanded to know, “What’s this all about?” in her usual accusing manner. My father called me and wanted to talk about it because he loved it so much!
It was especially hard to tell my story in Myths of the Fatherless. Back then, we still sent out Christmas letters and I almost sent my father a different version, omitting the part about publishing that book. In the end, though, I realized that if I was going to have the relationship I hoped for, I would have to tell him about it. And so I did. He told me he read it twice right away. After that, he became “dad.” After that, he read everything I wrote.
A friend said I was courageous to look for my father and to meet him. When I told him that, he said, “It’s not courage, it’s normal.” I think both may be right. My normal desire outweighed my fears. The courage came from admitting that desire to myself. But I do think it’s courageous to reveal parts of ourselves in our art, either through words or music or paint or whatever it is that makes us feel vulnerable. A comment on social media. Even this blog post.
Anyway, the inspiration for this post today is that while I await my editor’s feedback on “She’s Not That Good,” I’m starting to organize my other wip, working title: “Burying the Dead.” And it’s killer. The truth always is.