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My writer’s practice took me a long time to establish. The everyday routines of ‘when to write,’ ‘how to allocate my time between free-flow and editing,’ and ‘what holistic habits make the work easier/more comfortable’ took elaborate trial-and-error to perfect. I felt pretty good about the little pulleys and gears I constructed to ensure I’d keep going back to the page.
Yeah, and all that careful tinkering blew up in the pandemic + revolution.
The launch of my second novel, Messenger 93, and the classes I teach had to move online. Huge learning curves. I thought I should raise my voice on social media to ‘please read my story,’ then realized that I had to mute my voice because revolution > book. I’m supposed to be writing Book 3. That’s not happening.
My focus is fractured. My heart and gut and mind are at odds with each other. That third story is knocking at the door, ready to make itself known to me, but I keep standing against it. ‘Can’t you see there are other things going on, Story? There is serious work to do!’ Not feeling as glib as that probably sounds. But the cognitive dissonance of trying to connect with the engines that once served my writing process versus the realities of living in the present day, of possible death on one end of the spectrum and necessary total systemic reconstruction on the other, often manifests as a kind of confused hysteria. Tears, laughter, fear, resolve, leaning, supporting, myself, you, twist in and out of each other, each hour of every day.
How can I create when there are friends and family to check in on, news to consume, letters to send, changes to demand? How can I write when I don’t know where we’re going as a collective? What fictional-posing-as-real world can I create today when the living world will likely (hopefully) look quite different by the time my next story reaches it? Every missed submission deadline for my writing group feels like a mini-crash. Every blank computer page I leave with its blinking cursor feels like a betrayal. But. But some days. Some moments—the medicine finds its way in. I know that the homework of change, the signal of patience, the bated breath of waiting, will take me and Future Story to some deeper place. I believe we humans will come through this seismic shift stronger, better. And I’m sure, I think, that I will also get back to writing the words. Soon. I hope.
Before transitioning to writing, Barbara Radecki was an established Toronto-based actor. Her screenplay, Modern Persuasion, is now a film starring Alicia Witt and Bebe Neuwirth, and premiered at Cannes Marché 2020. Her debut novel, The Darkhouse, was shortlisted for the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize 2017. Messenger 93 is her second novel.