This week may top all others in immensity of psychic energy experienced, used, and drained away. Election day I volunteered as a monitor at the local school where two precincts were voting, and then did a shift as a runner, taking food out to poll watchers and bringing back the lists of folks who still might need reminding to go vote. That night provided a huge catharsis for the tension, hope, anxiety, yearning, and work of the campaign season. Barack Obamaâ€™s speech, the footage of Jesse Jackson in tears, the crowds of joyous Americansâ€¦Iâ€™m so very grateful that I lived to see the day. I appreciated the seriousness of Obamaâ€™s speech, the lack of cheap promises for easy fixes. His eloquence, as always, touched my heart. The next day, I thought more about what having Michelle Obama as a first lady will mean to this country. During the campaign, I received a recorded call from her, and was impressed by the measured cadence of her voice, the calm that she evoked. Thank you, America, for making this possible.
The Saturday before the election, I started Nanowrimo. Iâ€™d never signed up in previous years, because it seemed silly to churn out yet another first draft to sit among the other first drafts that have piled up over the years, awaiting their turns at thorough editing. But this year, I had a dream that, when I worked it with some friends, pointed me clearly toward writing the novel Iâ€™d been toying with starting. (The dream also had layers about the election, all entwined together as dream symbols so often are.) So I figured Iâ€™d give it a try. After all, it wouldnâ€™t be so different from what Iâ€™ve been doing for nine years, right? The pages would just pile up faster.
Actually, so far, thatâ€™s turned out to be true. My writing sessions take longer, of course, since Iâ€™m writing about five or six times as much per day as my previous minimum. But itâ€™s not the first time Iâ€™ve had work pour through me this steadily, and this novel is truly begging to be written. Today, I worked the dream again with Jeremy Taylor, and found more affirmation that writing the novel is the right thing to be doing now, in part because its themes tie in deeply with the question of race in America. Iâ€™m so very grateful that two intelligent, well-spoken, responsible individuals will be our next president and first lady. And Iâ€™m grateful, in the way I was grateful when the Berlin Wall fell, that a historic barrier has finally crumbled. I am hopeful that Barack and Michelle can, by being themselves, erode the negative projections that weâ€™ve historically visited on people with African ancestry in this country. Though, as I write that, Iâ€™m reminded that if we go back far enough in our human ancestry, we all have our roots in that rich continent.
I hope I can grasp hold of my own squirmy projections long enough to dissect them in the writing of this novel. I hope that this process shines light on my own shadows and brings to conscious awareness any unconscious prejudices I still lug around. Jeremy Taylor suggested that I consider the following: How have I been changed by this prodigious effort to conjure non-material truth and put it on the page?
Making myself available to the story comes easily now, after all the years of practice. Understanding how the story changes me is a new, unfamiliar idea. Itâ€™s an effort that I would be wise to make in regards to the election of our new president, as well. How does this new story for America change me, and how does it change our collective understanding of who we are as a nation?