Do you consider yourself someone who cries a lot? Because I do not, it often takes me by surprise to find I need "a good cry." Or when I start crying unexpectedly. Especially in front of others.
Of course it happens and I'm fairly comfortable with the idea of shedding tears. It's a natural expression and usually leaves me feeling refreshed or cleansed. Generally speaking, however, tears seem to belong in the domain of our private spaces. Life doesn't always play by these tidy rules, though, does it?
Yesterday evening while visiting some friends, I was fairly well shocked to find myself sitting there with tears pouring from my eyes. She's a fellow-artist and he's a writer and I was sharing about how I've finally "found" my story. The first novel I always knew I'd write, but didn't know what it would be about or how the plot would unfold... these questions have been answered now, and I've begun the project. Albeit sporadically and in the fringes.
Having shared the premise with only a handful of friends - mostly other writers - I did so again last night. The conversation grew to include some anecdotes related to a major theme (sorry, I'll write about it here one day - promise,) and I shared an incident I observed once that really moved me. It's going in the book. My protagonist will observe a similar scene. In fact, it affected me so much, I may find a way to make the book open with this little scene. So telling the story of what I'd watched, I realized - about halfway through - that my friends had gone all blurry. There were tears in my eyes! Shocking. So I wiped 'em away and kept talking. Only my voice was breaking up. By the end of my little story, I was really crying.
I wish I could tell you I honored the tears and didn't make a big deal about it. I can't quite say that, however, because it surprised me so much I felt a little taken aback, even awkward and apologetic. Which I believe we shouldn't be about our tears. Nonetheless, I was.
Driving home later it occurred to me that I've never cried in front of anyone who responded so perfectly. It's not like I have a list of criteria for the way I expect people to respond to my tears. But if I did... They neither rushed to comfort me nor bent over backwards assuring me. They just continued the conversation, gently acknowledged my tears and their understanding - they clearly "got" why I'd been so affected - and we moved through the moments. Afterward it hit me that "it wasn't about" the tears at all. It was, rather, about what was conveyed in the story. I felt it and so did my friends.
Now the challenge emerges: write this story into my book using language effective enough that my future readers are also touched. If not moved to tears, at least I'd love to learn one day that they were truly affected. Seems to me a fine task for an author.
To be continued - one unknown day...