Last week I wrote about the attrition of the spirit I felt after eighteen years in the legal arena, butting heads with judges, opposing lawyers, and at times my own clients. But as human experience tells us, to identify a problem is not to solve it, although it is a crucial first step. I wanted something that I suspect we all want: fulfillment. But what? The answer for me began to reveal itself after a youth soccer match.
My youngest son played on a team called the Williamsburg Wizards, and one Saturday, after a memorable game, I took him and four of his teammates to what I thought was a carnival but turned out to be an art show. When I realized my mistake, I asked myself the same question I’d asked about my law career: what now? We salvaged the day with a movie and bowling, and as I drove home late that afternoon I realized I had acquired during my hours with them a pocketful of memories I didn’t want to lose. I’d done some writing as a lawyer and correspondent, but nothing as personal as the account I wanted of my special day. Over the next week I produced a short story I called The Dare on the Bridge. It was nonfiction, but there was enough of me in it to get the creative juices flowing. I shared it with the parents of my son’s co-conspirators, and their enthusiasm and praise fed a hunger too acute to be ignored. Ego? No doubt there was some of that at work, but more importantly, I felt a strange and nearly forgotten . . . there’s that word again . . . fulfillment.
Why? Even today I am not certain, but the writing I’ve done since has furnished some clues. The factual account of my day with the Wizards was important--who said what to make us laugh, who bowled gutter balls, what was said in the van they didn’t want me to hear--but more importantly, it was the emotional account I wanted preserved. I wanted to read that story ten or twenty years later and be able to put myself back there, to be forty-five again with my ten year old son making jokes in the back seat with his buddies. And to do that, to write something that would evoke the feelings I experienced, I had to reach within myself to pull onto the page precisely what those feelings were. Doing it with moderate success in that first story whetted my appetite for more.
Did it whet it sufficiently for me to attempt a novel? That is the subject of next week’s blog.