I accept it now. I am writing a novel, one that I started back in 2014, if I’m being honest. I was in a MFA program as a poet with the requirement of workshopping one poem a week, which meant that I had to write a reasonably good poem a week. This was at the same time that digital lynchings of black people, already killed by the police, were being played out more and more actively on social media. It was not enough that our people were being killed; the videos of those killings filtered onto the news and social media so that we could be immersed in the violent intimacy of those conflicts that always ended with blood splatter. I had difficulty writing at a predominantly white institution while in a state of trauma and grief and anger and frustration with a conflagration other massive emotions within my body.
So I started creating a world, dictating to my phone while I drove home about these immortals of African descent, who can age and have children, are similar to vampire in that blood keeps them alive, but they are tied to water and drought. They are bound by distinct legal and spiritual rules, which are revealed through the narrative of a central character in crisis as the world is in environmental and societal crisis.
It’s so early in this world, though I’ve written character descriptions and imagined how the characters relate to one another. My hope is to have a draft done in the next year, but the first step in writing a novel might be accepting that one is writing a novel.
I’m writing a novel. And the characters have been calling to me for years. They have been offering my creative possibility and spark and healing. As I work through the currents of their lives, I find pathways in my own struggles and in my way of seeing where I am now.
At the same time, it is a project that I struggle to return to, but once I’m in, I find it difficult to extract myself. I suppose that’s the way with the difficult and the intoxicating. The novel might be my siren in that way.
Here’s hoping that I don’t ultimately have to stuff my ears with cotton and be fastened to a mast to see my way through.