As we step back from Leonard for a time to focus our efforts on other writing projects, it’s necessary to have this space from Leonard. Despite our best efforts, the story we were chasing isn’t there and we are left with a pile of mismatched puzzle pieces. We can still make something out of it. But I can’t see what it is supposed to be. It could take on a different form from what we were expecting. Perhaps, it exists as a short story in its final form. Perhaps, it becomes a story inspired by real events. There is something to be said with Leonard. And it isn’t simply because of the time and resources invested in his story. It can still become something. Something new. There is still a story that wants to be told, but we have to wait. Stay patient and focused, allowing the story to gestate until it is ready to show itself to us. This seems to be the writing process for me. There is a pile of half baked scraps lying about. Some are roughly sketched out, still unsure of how to build something. Some are still barely ideas. This is the long road. There are no shortcuts to be found. This past year has taught me to keep the point of all this in mind. There is a point to all this. We have something that we feel needs to be shared and that this will give us a platform to build something meaningful in the world. This is where we are going. If I loose sight of those two truths, this would become unbearable as we often seem to be standing still despite all our work. As I sit, watching these ideas take shape, I can sit contentedly knowing it is all going somewhere. I’m just not sure where.
There is something very personal about writing and I suppose this is true of all art forms. Giving hidden parts of yourself to the light. It makes sharing my writing difficult. You could say that it’s a fear of rejection, but I think that is too simple an answer. I think it really is a fear of being found inadequate. Of taking this hidden part of yourself and sharing it with the world and having the world brush it aside, barely acknowledging it. This is the hardest part of writing. Putting words on a page comes easy. There is always something to be said, even if it isn’t topical. But it is hard to find comfort with those words. The comfort of knowing that these are good words, valuable words. They aren’t superfluous words. They are important words. Words that should be shared and showed off. Over the past year as we’ve committed to our writing projects, there has been a growing comfort with our work. There’s a growing sense that this is something that needs to be shared with the world. That the words building Forgetful Jerry, and all our other projects, are good words that should be given to the world. This gives the confidence needed to share Forgetful Jerry and the persistence necessary to constantly move forward on this project, no matter how haltingly. Over the months as Forgetful Jerry has become a refined project, instead of a nebulous thought, there has been a growing comfort in sharing it with the world. From friends and family to strangers in bars, we are slowly sharing this story that we are convinced needs to be shared with the world, hoping that persistence may be more important than sheer talent.
While we are at an impasse with Leonard and what to do, if anything with that story, we are throwing the full fury of our attention to Forgetful Jerry. Or as much as we are capable of doing. As much as we both want this to be able to focus our full attention to these projects, we both have a hard time providing a singular focus to the table. Ryan has a family that he thinks is important to give his attention to. Me, I’m just easily distracted and willing to take on more than I need to or should. Even with both of us working on Forgetful Jerry, we still come up short of a full-time commitment and that’s fine. Neither of us are upset by that fact. And, I think, that’s because we know that the juice is worth the squeeze. The big picture we are chasing is worth the long haul. We want all these things to be immediate but we can rest assured that the road ahead is worth the time and taking the slow road to get there. As we set out for the next phase of Forgetful Jerry, we have to remember this and I think this is what makes writing a query letter easy for me. I’ve seen writers talk about writing a query letter and the stress they feel about it. Some agonize over it so much that they can recite it from memory. It is stressful and difficult to explain why your dreams are worth the attention and investment of an agent or publisher. And it is scary. You get one chance to impress and then you’re off the list. And you have to move on to the next stop, hoping that this will be one. This will be the time you catch their eye and they see that special something in your story that you see. Just how to tell them what that is. Writing a query letter is a big moment, but I don’t find myself able to be overwhelmed by the moment. I’m not sure how Ryan feels about it. For me, I think it comes down to the fact that this is only meant to be a step for us. Forgetful Jerry and whatever stories we tell, are only the beginning for us. So while I want to present us well with a well worked query letter, I have faith that this is part of a bigger picture. This is not where the story ends.
We seem to be spending less time on our original plan, Leonard’s story, and more time on Forgetful Jerry. For starters, this is because we have one Forget Jerry story completed, which Ryan has started to share with you, three outlined and another eight or so ideas drafted. This is all a far cry from where we are with Leonard’s story and having completed something is a great motivator. Forgetful Jerry seems like a more attainable goal at the moment. The stories really do write themselves as they are inspired by real life, so there is an easy momentum to build with these stories. For now, we are running with the low hanging fruit provided by Forgetful Jerry.
While that is all very true, it is equally true that we have hit a roadblock with Leonard and our original goal. Leonard was a difficult man to know while he was living and perhaps even harder to know in death. To say he was private, may be a gross understatement. As far as I can tell, there was only one family get together involving his and his brother’s family. So extended family seems to know less about Leonard and the family than I did six months ago. This leaves us in a lurch as we have invested a great deal of resources in this story to date. It would be a shame for all that to go to waste. But, as I have gotten to know more family and some better, it would hard to qualify the time and money spent wasted. Still, though, there may be a story left to tell here. I’m not sure what that story is or if it even does exist. As we have said from the beginning, we are willing to let the road define itself. For now, we are hitting pause to regroup. To see what Leonard may be saying to us. To see where the road leads us.
And in the meantime, we will pursue Forgetful Jerry.
I’ve been struggling to feel motivated lately. I think part of it is that I’ve finally realized that magnitude of what we are attempting. There was never a point that I thought writing a book would be easy, but somewhere recently I have started to understand what it takes to see this through. It takes a lot. And coupled with the daily demands of life, it seems more and more difficult to make time for Leo’s story.
More than that, though, I think I’m struggling with what I have found and, to some degree, what I haven’t found. Getting to know Leo is no easier in death than it was in life. He may not have not intended to be so secluded from his own life, but he does seem to have lived apart from it. Leo was always there, but he seems to have lived a life separate from the one he was a part of. Despite being an active participant, no one seems able to explain his place in their lives. It leaves this whole adventure feeling kind of empty. More than Leo’s impenetrable mystery, may be the one absolute thing I have found. I always had the feeling that Bolling did not like me and I have a couple ideas of why, but I don’t think I will ever know why. It may be that I am too much like Leonard or it may be that I am too much like my dad. Neither of which are bad, but these are two men that, I think, Bolling always struggled to love, to understand. Visiting with family and hearing how they remember Bolling has confirmed that she did not much care for me. The Bolling they knew was not the woman I ever knew. To them, she was selfless and always welcoming. I never experienced this from her. It’s the opposite of how I knew her. She was always distant and I don’t feel like I ever knew Bolling better than Leonard. Neither of these are what I was looking for when I set out and both of these leave me wanting to quit the whole thing, because the road ahead may not be any better.
Maybe the next round of visits will reinvigorate me.