the summer i met my first husband, i was working on my first novel, and according to him, most of the people who knew me then thought i was crazy. (my children, if they read this, will most likely wonder how anything has changed.)
however, shortly after we married, i stopped writing.
i'm not sure how, i'm not sure why. i know i was very young, and a writer needs a certain amount of experience from which to draw in order to have something to write about. when i was first married, all my stories seemed flat and uninteresting. and so, i stopped.
years passed. i birthed babies, kept house, chased bad guys, taught aerobics, ran a daycare, dabbled in interior decorating, and mediated peace between neighbors, landlords, tenants and other tormented souls. i volunteered at the library for successive children, but where other parents read stories to their classes, i told stories to mine... stories no one had ever heard before, because i made them up.
along the way, i supported my ex body and soul through law school and his daily demons. nothing i tried i ever really succeeded at, mostly, because - as i realize in retrospect - mister ex sabotaged my success at any critical turn.
and then one day, i got an Idea. it was the kind of Idea i hadn't had in a very long time... in more than eleven years to be exact. it was the kind of Idea that spawned more. As more and more interesting ideas came to me, i saw that they came complete with names and needs, dreams and desires. it was the first time in a long time i felt the sensation of Something trying to eat its way out of my head.
so i bought a notebook. i carried it everywhere. when i stopped at red lights, i wrote in it, quick jottings that captured just a phrase, a place, a thought. then one labor day weekend, on the beach in ocean city, i turned to a fresh page in my notebook, and i wrote the first sentence of my first manuscript.
are you crazy, asked my ex.
i think i am, i answered.
i knew there was no turning back. when mister ex tried to sabotage my writing, he found a very different opponent from the one who had cowed so readily before. when he demanded i stop, i laughed. when he tried to guilt me into it (you wouldn't be the first woman to give up her career for her family, he said), i told him writing isn't what i do, writing is what i am. when he accused me of having lesbian affairs with the people in my writing groups (i didn't know any male writers), i reminded him i hoped i'd be able to tell oprah i'd succeeded because of him and not in spite of him.
when he threatened to divorce me (six times in four weeks) i filed first.
the year my first novel came out was the most terrifying year of my life. i had hardly any money, and an angry ex who was determined to punish me by using his advantage as a lawyer. i had no idea where i was going to live, or how i was going to live when i got there.
but i had my writing, my children, my family, my friends...and very shortly afterward (as a result of that first novel) Beloved.
and that, as it's turned out, was enough.
and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.