Susan Vreeland at Margaret Mitchell's typewriter, Atlanta, September 2014.
This Writer's Confessions
Dear reader, I'm told that readers such as you appreciate knowing about an author's personal life and thoughts. Because I appreciate you, I'm compelled to confess:
That some nights I cannot sleep because the issues of the day and the issues of the work commingle in a swirl of joy and worry.
That I must believe in myself unflinchingly in order to convince myself that someday I can surpass Girl in Hyacinth Blue.
Alternatively, that I must believe in God so unflinchingy that I know "He will be with my mouth and teach me what [ I ] shall say."
That even in the tenth or twelfth draft, something sublime struggles to make itself known.
That at times I find it onerous to carry the weight of self-promotion, while at other times I am thrilled to be in front of an audience of enthusiastic readers.
That sometimes I think that writing Facebook entries and blogs keeps me from the writing I was meant to write, but maybe not.
That for my own peace, I must forgive and congratulate those authors who do it effortlessly.
That I must be content with less robust public regard because of my unwillingness and inability to live and move and have my total being online in the tangle of tweets and other social media.
Rather, that I think increasingly of the more momentous questions: How should one live one's days? To what should one pay close attention?
That I grieve that I cannot write another novel set in my beloved Impressionist Paris because I have given all in Luncheon of the Boating Party, and therefore must, perforce, give Gustave Caillebotte's Paris Street, Rainy Day to another writer who may not love it from the depths of his or her soul as I do.
That I fear some other writer will seize on Winslow Homer whose work I adore, and will bring out a novel that resolves the gaps in his life that made my own efforts end in abandonment.
That I would love to write a novel about Bernini's sublime Apollo and Daphne heralding her escape from him the moment her fingers become leaves and her toes roots, were it not that I cannot love the sculptor who was brutal to his brother and his faithless lover.
That Delacroix's Orphan Girl in the Graveyard beguiles me with wonder at her alarm. What does she see that we do not?
That Massaccio's Expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden makes me weep.
That I yearn to write an illustrated collection of personal responses to all the paintings and sculptures I adore, regardless of its prospects for success in the literary marketplace. [Please respond: Would that be of interest to you?]
That I must be satisfied in knowing that I did the best work I knew how to do in any given year.
That I yet ache for mastery in the same moment that I confess that I am neither quick nor blithe, and that I will never be glib.
That the vastness of all that I have to learn eludes me, will always elude and tease and entice me.
That words are all I have in the way of tools to draw the nuance, to reveal the unrecognized exquisite, to reach for the beauty of the divine.
That I acknowledge with gratitude that what appears to have come from my pen first came from the still, small voice of an angel, and in that moment, I was lucky enough to be listening.
That I long to return to France, to England, to Italy.
That I cannot travel to some new place or look through a travel journal or art book without thinking, How can I turn this fascination, this impulse into a novel?
That I am too serious.
That I don't know how to play.
That I yearn to know how to pray with deeper spiritual understanding so that I may know what God is thinking.
That I don't know how to be a poet. That I am unqual to the challenge, at present.
That I am afraid that if I stop writing, I will be forgotten.
That I try beyond all merely human thought to believe that "Ever through [my] work shall shine that light whose glory, Lord, is Thine."*
With utter honesty, Susan
*Christian Science Hymnal, #12