Thursday, August 5, 2010
After Taking up the Pen and Ink
It seems a person must proceed with a degree of optimism and confidence even in the face of great, perhaps impossible, challenges. Well, if such a person doesn't so proceed, it can mean not proceeding at all, becoming so discouraged that they can't go on.
How does a sixty-two-year-old English-speaking white man (me) capture the voice, the setting, and circumstances of a fourteen-year-old Latino boy (Alejandro) in America? It takes a considerable amount of conceit to even make the attempt , although, perhaps, I wasn't smart enough to apprehend just how much moxie it would take. Yet that is precisely what I've been doing for several months now, writing a manuscript that I am around 220 pages into about Alejandro, a boy who is here in the United States with his parents, and none of them, not him or his parents, have legal documents to be here. They are illegal immigrants.
Now, it seems being in the place I'm at, as I try to tie things up into a climax and a tight conclusion for the novel, this project becomes more dicey than ever. My fellow critiquers, especially one in particular, raises new and bigger red flags of its difficulty to speak for this culture, this situation. Caution! Proceed at your own risk. Danger ahead.
This friend has been to a recent writer's convention and attended a panel that discussed this very issue, writing about Latinos. So, through him, I become more and more aware of the sensitivities in taking this on. The irony is that the very people who live in such circumstances --- undocumented immigrants --- usually don't have an opportunity to write for or speak for themselves because of their situation: trying to lie low and survive in a culture and society that views them as filthy lawbreakers, worthy of deportation and not much more. Some even characterize them as terrorists and invaders of this country. It is partly from such a perspective, recognizing these people's lack of sympathetic voices, that I decided it was important to write about Alejandro to begin with.
The challenge facing me raises various issues.
Do I want to even continue the attempt? To the degree I have a natural competitiveness, and I do although mine isn't as great as some people's I've experienced, do I want to proceed with the project and finish it in order to show everybody I can do it?
Do I want to cut my losses and turn to something else? I already worked for an entire career, enjoyed the work I pursued for well over thirty years, but retired , intending in retirement to do less. However, doing less certainly didn't mean doing nothing. I fully intended to do something in my retirement, and at the time I retired, I fully intended to continue writing and honing that particular craft.
Do I want to step up my efforts? If I want to receive recognition and some of the success others have received, like, for example, the friend I received the cautionary warning from mentioned above, I'll have to do more. That friend, who has publishing deals for three books with Scholastic, has a better background to be a writer: he has been dreaming of it, has been consistently reading and studying writign, and even began writing, it seems, at the outset of his life. Not me. Additionally, my friend seems more intelligent, better trained for writing, and more well connected in contemporary life and society than I am.
Is it fun enough?
Even as set forth these ideas, I know I want to do it. I know I want to complete it and to make it as good as I can. Nonetheless, there is some ambivalence and some wavering.
Plus, it just occurred to me that perhaps I should write this story from a first person perspective as an observer of the boy's life. Then, perhaps, I couldn't be accused of being anything but the dumbass I am.
No, thinking about it somemore, I previously considered that possibility. While I don't rule it out --- it always hangs there in the back of my mind as a possibility lurking in the shadows --- I'll try to finish in the way I've begun.