Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A FAMILY SURVEY conducted by Julie L. Cannon

This has gotta be short and sweet as the hot breath of a novel deadline is on the back of my neck, and I’m also supposed to be gathering things together for a long weekend trip out of town. At first I thought I’d do a sort of ‘Show, don’t Tell’ kind of thing, and interview various family members with the question: “How do you feel about living with a creative person?” (Notice I didn’t use the term ‘Creative Lunatic.’) This was to be a strictly journalistic approach that would prove my belief that it’s, in one word, fabulous.

But that went by the wayside when I began by asking my 13-year-old, Sam, newly out of school for the summer, and he responded quickly, “Well, they kinda make up back-stories about everyone they see.”

I brightened, because to me that sounded like fun. I take great delight in making up folks’ backstories, and also playing the so-called What If? game as I go along through my daily life. It’s a great way to come up with plot ideas. “Well, don’t you like that?” I prompted Sam as he lolled in his underwear on the sofa adjacent to my writing desk.

“Not really,” Sam sighed. “It’s gets annoying.” Then he continued with this long diatribe on why the demands and temperament of a writer-in-residence are wearying and unfair. I will not record them here, because I know all too well that words have power and I would like to forget them.

It hurt to hear this coming from my baby! The child I bore in my old age, and have nurtured lovingly till now! That’s when I realized I would no longer conduct my survey. I knew my ego could not handle asking my analytical, rational left-brained husband this same question. He’s the business-type who gets furious about erratic (let’s face it, sometimes non-existent) writing paychecks, long, odd hours of work, and a frenzy of anxious marketing after each book is launched. The one family member I figured I could count on for a gratifying answer was my 20-year-old son, Gus, the middle-child, but he was still asleep at 3:00 P.M. and my eldest, Iris, was journeying home from a rock concert and had no time for questions.

Yes, it took me a while to lick my wounds, but now I’m back.

Wouldn’t you think writers would be the most well-adjusted people there are? I mean, we can purge our mental demons by killing off evil characters in our writing, right? And on the flip side, we get to  reward the good ones lavishly. Doesn’t that make for good, calm psyches?  Speaking of well-adjusted, we also get to live out our fantasies in the fictional world of our novels. In my current novel, TWANG, I’m fulfilling a life-long dream as a country music diva living in Nashville, Tennessee, belting out hits from the stage of the Grand Ole Opry.

Another plus for having a writer/wife/mom in the family - we usually work from home, which means the house is spotless and the ground beef for supper is thawing on the kitchen counter well before noon. Right?

Also, working from home means we’re there when our kids get off the schoolbus, heaping attention onto them in their formative years.  Isn’t that great?

Well, I made a pact with myself to tell the truth in today’s blog. I’m home, yes, but not really. I’m living in two, perhaps three, concurrent worlds. More often than not supper plans are made after 6 P.M. and amidst much consternation. Cobwebs dangle, dust gathers, and roaches remain in the spot where they perished days ago.  When Tom or Sam or Gus or Iris calls my name, I often holler “Just a minute!” because my characters have their own agendas. You may be wondering where the third concurrent world comes from. Well, I teach a memoir-writing class (for one of those ‘other income-streams’ writers need) and when that’s happening, I’m in my students’ creative worlds as well as my own. Of course, there’s the real world, too, the one most folks live and breathe in. It’s hard for me, I admit, but there are times when I do strive to be in the moment. To live in the temporal world. I try to shut out the voices of fiction and connect. In fact, this weekend my beloved and I are leaving the boys here in Watkinsville, Georgia, and going off on an all-expenses paid trip to Nashville, Tennessee, courtesy of my writing career.

While I’m meeting my new editor, Tom will be off looking for car-shows. While I’m touring the Grand Ole Opry, he’ll be hunting pulled-pork barbecue. But together we’re going to hear a concert featuring Vince Gill and Josh Turner. Yes, I’ll have my spiral-bound notebook and my Bic pen along with me, furiously scribbling down things under headings that read; Hear, See, Smell, Taste, Touch, and trying to record bits of conversation I overhear, but still . . .         

While I realize the question posed at the beginning of this blog has not exactly been answered, please know that I also realize it’s not always a picnic to live with a creative soul, and I feel absolutely blessed to be surrounded by people who have both feet securely planted in this world, and yet who support and encourage me in my crazy passion for story-telling.

Learn more about Julie and her books at her website.


Man Martin said...

It's wonderful to have a supportive family isn't it? And I admire your discipline keeping a notebook of sensory impressions.

Anonymous said...

What a fun read! And perhaps you've given me insight, even though I write nonfiction; my mind's swirling from heart-healthy children to Katrina stories while trying to remember the to-do list for today and recalling appointments that pop up on my calendar. . . Argh. Thanks for your "survey" and perceptivity.

Karen Harrington said...

I love how you said that "the hot breath of deadline" is breathing down your neck! Ha! Thanks for the insights into your writing life. I can relate to being in different worlds. Nice post!

Julie Cannon said...

Thanks,fellow authors. Y'all know more than anybody the pitfalls of being left-brained. As a like-minded soul once said to me, "Sometimes I just wish I could turn my brain off!" Blessings to you in your creative endeavors. Truly, Julie

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