“You know what, I always think of this quote: What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls the butterfly. I always think of that lately because of what’s happened through the course of me kind of justifying my choice to do this role, I kind of found my own voice. I’ve suffered from years of low self-esteem, shyness and now I really feel like now is a time to step into all of who I am. You know, more so than ever. There’s no kind of room to hold back, and through that, I feel really confident about myself lately. I’ve never really felt that before.”
— Viola Davis
In December of 2009, I woke up early one morning–about 5:00 AM–to write pages of a new novel started a day before. The idea, which had haunted me since summer, needed air. But it wasn’t just inspiration that got me out of bed to crouch over my keyboard. I was heartsick, angry, and sad. Two things had happened–a tragedy to a friend, and a stressful situation at work–that my soul needed a place to rant, roam, and sing.
Writing was one of the few places where I didn’t sense quicksand. In weaving a tale, there was no chaos–only fast-unfurling order. In making a story, there was truth–no more lies. What I saw a friend suffer and what I suffered could melt, hot from my rage. Even the ugliest things put to flame burn lovely colors. What was sick became sublime.
I’m no Mozart, but the analogy stands for anyone who attempts art:
Viola Davis is the child of a maid and the grandchild of one. She was taunted by schoolmates who now gush over her Oscar nomination, forgetting they ever humiliated her. Did she ever imagine all that suffering across generations would lead to the red carpet and the Oscars? Some would say it wasn’t worth it, especially if you think of what her grandmother withstood. I know my grandmother’s strength and survival of her circumstances gives me pause when I label my own struggles “suffering.” Is my writing a worthy outcome of what she went through?
The first draft finished itself in May, 2010, and ever since, I have been revisiting the work so it’s now in a twenty-something draft.