Saturday, October 18, 2008

Life and Death

For someone who loved English class, even way back in grade school, I am certainly having a hard time writing a decent synopsis of Eddie's Wake. How does a person condense a five year project down to one paragraph, one page, even three pages?

Perhaps it's because I do a better job spreading my sights out broadly than I do pulling something in to look at the bare essentials of it. And it's not just in writing fiction that I find this difficult. It's taken me my whole life to learn to look at a situation or set or problems, wrestle with them, figure out what the core issue is, then consider possible solutions. Being able to step outside the situation and realize that it's not necessarily my problem has been helpful; still, the truth is, I'm not too good at it. I get too involved with people.

But daily, my work takes me into life and death issues: things that can be fixed, issues and conditions that must be lived with, issues and illness that lead to death. Working in the church means that everything--everything-- is about life and death, both for individuals and for the organization.

I'm going through Eddie's Wake with a fine tooth comb--again--looking for typos and punctuation errors, and as I do, I noticing how nearly every character and every scene is about life and death or what is live-giving versus what is death-dealing.

Today I performed a wedding at a former congregation for a woman with whom I worked closely those years ago. The church seemed smaller than I remembered it. There were lots of people I didn't know. I was so happy to be there for this one person; the old connection with her was still there, but I've been away, no longer a part of the life of that place. I've been able to step back and see things a bit differently.

Maybe if I wasn't still so involved with Karl, Maggie, Jacob, Will and all the others, I might be able to step back and boil the novel down into a nice, tidy couple of paragraphs. Maybe I need to remind myself that they are not real (nor are they parishioners!), but figments of my over-active imagination.

Maybe I could do that for an hour, maybe even a day. But not much longer than that. The characters are still too real for me. More later...
P.S. The photo above was taken in northern Michigan, from the front porch of my Dad's first cabin.

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