does not describe me fully
it is where to start

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Troubling the Twilight Stillness

As I near the end of my novel’s first draft, I've turned to reading others' novels to remind me of why storytelling matters as an art. The joy I experienced as a reader has motivated me to provide that same experience for someone else. In particular, a moving passage in Ngugi Wa Thiongo’o’s Petals of Blood has spurred me on. [Thanks Cuban for suggesting I read this novel!]

In Petals of Blood, one of the lead characters, while experiencing rejection from a love interest, talks about being caught “. . . in a twilight gloom somewhere between sleeping and waking, and should I not rest there, and not trouble that twilight stillness with passionate insistence?”

With that passage, Thiongo’o reminded me of what is at stake for me personally. As so many other writers have said about themselves, I can’t not write. Writing is such an intrinsic part of who I am that, though I may change venue and format, I must write. Not writing would be the equivalent of dwelling in Thiongo’o’s twilight gloom. While there are people and endeavors in my life which also evoke passion, writing is a singularly powerful force for generating that experience.

When I feel discouraged in my current project, it is tempting to say, especially since there is no publisher waiting with bated breath for my novel, that I should just quit. Then I ask myself, Do I grab life in a passionate embrace or do I choose not to trouble the twilight stillness?


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Judith .. what a wonderful passage to highlight .. twilight gloom - and it could be so applicable to just being 'stuck' as we so often get with so many projects .. the 'overwhelmedness' ... but knowing we have to continue on ..

An excellent thought .. and I'd love to read Petals of Blood one day .. sounds very interesting ..

Thanks for this - Hilary

Judy Croome | @judy_croome said...

Grab life with a passionate embrace - there's no choice, although it's so often tempting to not trouble that twilight stillness.

Well done on getting closer and closer to your novel's ending. I'll soon be going into hibernation myself as I must start getting the first draft of my next novel onto paper.

Judy, South Africa

A Cuban In London said...

Petals of Blood is one of my favourite novels and one of those monumental literary works I go back to whenever I can. All in all, I think I've re-read it four or five times.

The downside, at least for me, is that when I read works of fiction of that magnitude a part of me shrinks and a certain gloom sets in. "Will I ever be able to write like that?". You talk about not being able to not write, for me it's more about "I can't not read" and in that act I sacrifice a bit of what I (still!) would like to do some day: write fiction for a living.

Great post. I might even take Petals of Blood with me (again!) to Cornwall in the summer holidays.

Greetings from London.

Judith Mercado said...

Hilary: I think that passage alone made it worthwhile to read the book. It is a wisdom saying not just for writing but for life.

Judy: I usually choose for passion though I may often get discouraged.

Cuban: I can't thank you enough for this book. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Jen ( said...

I've added Petals of Blood to my to-be-read on Goodreads... That passage reminds me of exactly where I am at in my life right now. Stuck in a twilight passage when I really wish that I was living.

Nevine Sultan said...

Well, if Cuban recommended it and you enjoyed it, I will definitely want to read it. And, those moments where one feels like quitting . . . they are so filled with darkness that one can only fight one's way out of them and get back to the pleasure of writing, already!

Wishing you luck with the last bit,

Judith Mercado said...

Jen and Nevine, I hope you enjoy the book. The beginning is a little slow but once one gets to know the characters it becomes more interesting. And he does offer gems like the twilight passage.