Rocky Writing Ridge

rock ridge

As a writer, I’m a climber on a high rocky ridge, in a stiff wind, without ropes. Some loyal companions are in sight, above or below me on my metaphorical mountain, but I’m alone on this high narrow edge. I’m thrilled, but also frightened and exhausted. This sharp ridge represents past/future, love/sex, boredom/excitement, public/private, reality/fiction.

This ridge rises up in my blogs, because they’re public, and yet, shadows of diary-truths. Not the absolute self-Truth that I’ve practiced in my fifty years of diary-keeping, but some public lower-case version of that personal experience. Not whole, but not sanitized, slippery like ice underfoot. To make this movie more dramatic, I’m carrying a too-heavy backpack; I’m more than slightly off-balance. Oh, yes, and I’m lost, not sure which direction I’m traveling on this ridge. I’m just hoping I don’t fall off one side or the other before I get my bearings.

Unwrapped, my dilemma is what to write, where, when, how. In regards to sex stuff, especially. How I got up here is sort of how cats get themselves high into trees, chasing pretty tasty bird bait. Having lost track of the flown-away lunch, claws stuck on a flimsy branch, I’m yowling in terror. I’ve written in blogs about my wild promiscuous youth, my sexual re-awakening at age sixty, smoking weed, masturbating, screams in the night. I’ve been “writing naked,” experimenting with George Carlin’s seven taboo words, adding some scary ones of my own.

Private readers have had mixed reactions to my “marriage novel,” which contains some sweet love-making scenes and some cruel sex, neither written as well as I’d like. Some anonymous strangers read it and gave it a Blue Ribbon award. Privacy and publicity clash. Next comes the rewrite phase, preparing for publishing, an opportunity to erase the sex and give readers an easier book, focusing on the lost-in-the-city Alzheimer’s-woman, which is, frankly, enough story for most people.

What then, of my cozy but now perhaps irrelevant blogging confessions, in which I was preparing myself, and you, my friendly public, for publishing those wicked sex tales? Honestly, it’s an enormous relief to consider deleting the nasty stuff, even though I’ll be letting myself down as a writer. Dumping that story-line means backing down from my mountain altogether, abandoning some hard-gained truths, relinquishing this bid for that peak’s dizzy summit. One sure thing: I can’t edit out the strange sex and keep the soft kissy love-making. That would be too fairy-tale. Not my genre. I’ll be carrying the dangerous sex-love saga in my writer’s backpack until I can tell it whole, right, well. Those fictions hold some hard truths about which I’m horribly embarrassed, but not ashamed. The difference between those two states is another snapshot of how narrow this ridge is.

I cling to my slippery mountain top, surveying the dangerous view. In the forest far below, I can hear cats screaming in the trees. Maybe I should go down there, throw up some ladders, rescue the silly creatures. Maybe not.


Rocky Writing Ridge — 3 Comments

  1. Well, you know, all authors need to walk this ridge, at least in imagination, before they publish or, in some cases, before they even put pen to paper. Clearly, there is a big audience for Fifty-Shades-type sex, so why should it be a more shocking revelation that people NOT 20-something and beautiful ALSO have sex — of any kind? It’s a bizarre and very annoying (at least) reflection of our society that your books might be more discomfiting to some than “Fifty Shades of Grey.” On the other hand, some of the discomfiture you’ve encountered may just be because your private readers know you as a person, and now they know some things you have made up and/or experienced which you ordinarily would not share with them over a cup of coffee — and they don’t know what to do with that knowledge. To publish the sex bits? I’d say it depends on two things: first, as an editor, does the sex tell us something important about the plot or the characters? If not, leave it out. Second, as a friend, can you, publicly and in writing, be an outlier — one of the people who makes their private self vulnerable in order to write something true yet possibly shocking? It might help to publish under a pseudonym, but if you offend, people will likely find you. I can tell you that the internet can be a shockingly verbally violent place, and that is something you should be aware of before publishing something that may ruffle troll feathers!

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