This week I saw Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland and was delightfully surprised by how well, for the most part, it captured the feelings and images I remember from having read the book often as a child:
‘Curiouser and curiouser!’ cried Alice (she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English); ‘now I’m opening out like the largest telescope that ever was! Good-bye, feet!’ (for when she looked down at her feet, they seemed to be almost out of sight, they were getting so far off). ‘Oh, my poor little feet, I wonder who will put on your shoes and stockings for you now, dears? I’m sure I shan’t be able! I shall be a great deal too far off to trouble myself about you: you must manage the best way you can;—but I must be kind to them,’ thought Alice, ‘or perhaps they won’t walk the way I want to go! Let me see: I’ll give them a new pair of boots every Christmas.’
I’ve been feeling a bit like Alice lately, watching myself change and grow, seeing some parts of myself “getting so far off” while others grow in prominence with new perspective. Part of it might be because our son is now in college, and my day-to-day responsibilities and focus as a parent have decreased considerably. Part might be because I am taking a break from teaching to give more attention to my writing. Part is that I finally feel as though I am growing up and ready to claim my spot in the world and to bump my career higher in my list of priorities. I am finding this is often true of people whose interests are in the creative realm: life really gets started in the second half.
Take the name of this blog, for example. It began as The First Novel Project because I am using these pages, in part, to write and finish my first full-length novel for adults. Then I realized that for my Twitter handle for this blog, I wanted to use my full name rather than the blog name, so that I could post more personal updates as well, which led me to think about the fact that I won’t always be able to call this blog “The First Novel Project,” and, what then? The Second Novel Project?
Curiouser and curiouser…
While I will continue to write about the process and journey of finishing a first novel, I also want to write about all kinds of writing and reading, words and books, ideas and questions. I write non-fiction as well as fiction, works for children and teens as well as for adults. I don’t want to tie myself too tightly to the idea of novels, first or otherwise.
I also am ready to use my name as part of the blog’s title. For some reason, this is a big step for me. Does anyone else struggle with claiming your spot, using your name, writing with the confidence that you—as a unique author with a unique voice—have a unique place in the world of words?
The second part of the title comes from my hands-down, all-time favorite poem, T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets:
Whisper of running streams, and winter lightning.
The wild thyme unseen and the wild strawberry,
The laughter in the garden, echoed ecstasy… [from "East Coker"]
I have always loved that passage and wanted to use it as a story title or in some other way. Now I can. It inspires me in the same way that the photo of the geographical setting of my novel-in-progress, in the background of the blog title, inspires me.
Another curious coincidence: Supposedly T. S. Eliot was thinking of Alice’s adventures when he wrote the first part of his Four Quartets:
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden. My words echo
Thus, in your mind. [from"Burnt Norton"]
Are you, too, returning to doors you never opened?
Are you “opening out like the largest telescope that ever was”?
What is your name? And how will you claim it?