When Writing is Hard

About a month ago, I finished a book I will call Iiva. Iiva was, in no uncertain terms, a bitch to write. I didn’t so much write Iiva as it tore itself out of me piece by piece. Writing it felt like violence.

Usually, writing is easy. I have a quick tongue and a quick mind, and I am not known for my brevity. Usually, writing is a joy. I find it affirming and restorative. I come across as hard-bitten and polemical, and I can’t say with honesty that such descriptions are inaccurate, but those parts of me are borne of a deep optimism. Optimism is too strong a word: let’s call me hopeful. I am hopeful that transformation is possible. I am hopeful that resistance and resilience carry in them the seeds of justice.

Iiva made a mockery of this, because just as deeply entrenched in me is a bitter cynicism. Iiva is a book with teeth and claws. Iiva is a book about what I could have been, and what I have been, and what I am sometimes afraid I will turn out to be.

There were times I didn’t want to write it anymore, but I kept at it because I’m stubborn and because it’s a good book. I tried to soften the blow by out-thinking the ending, but the ending refused to be out-thought. There was a distinct moment when it became clear to me that it had to end the way it did. If it didn’t, the book was a fraud. It hit me like a slap, the kind of vicious backhand that comes when you least expect it.

There were times when the writing drained me, dredged up things I would have rather left unearthed, and Iiva left me tender and sullen. It was a book that quieted me. I have always seen story telling as a potent form of communication, a way of building connections between me and someone else. But this time, I’m not sure I want that connection built. I don’t know that I want people to read this side of me. This is the first time I’ve ever held something private after finishing it. With every other book I could not wait to thrust it into the hands of someone as soon as the last word is written.

I couldn’t have written this book a year ago. Maybe not even three months ago. For the first time in my life I feel safe and secure; it no longer feels like the sword of Damocles is about to come crashing down. It’s a new and very strange feeling, and it’s only in the newness and strangeness of it that Iiva could be written. But part of me wishes this book had stayed dormant. Iiva made me face demons. I did it; I faced them, but they stared back, uncompromising and unflinching.

They certainly were not exorcised. They stared back and smirked. It takes a lot of humility to let your demons smirk at you, and Iiva  is drawn from that humility. I didn’t exorcise them, but Iiva made me acknowledge them, and made me live with them, and that took the sting out of them just the tiniest bit. Iiva was a sadistic, cutting bastard of a book, but it helped me heal a little, and for that it was worth seeing all the way through to the end.