I am writing a play. I’ve got the first act pretty much completed, but I’m having trouble thinking through a turn in the plot. While watching NCAA March Madness, I can let my mind relax and escape. Never will I forget the nail-biting contest between Louisville and Duke some years ago. My brother and his family live in Louisville. Their daughter attended Duke. Their son attended Louisville. The game was close and when it was over, I was exhausted. I felt that way the other night watching Notre Dame play the Wildcats. Now I have the Final Four to watch. Perhaps in the process I’ll get an epiphany about my play. It would be a pleasure, a gift.
The other day, I had a moment of pleasure. I talked with a friend--- I will call her Rita---who told me she read my two southern Red Earth books. She mentioned characters she liked or didn’t like, and we talked about how the book was structured. I used an over-arching story to frame the individual stories the main character writes reflecting different time periods. Her first story was staid and somber, reflecting early Atlantic coastline settlers. Later stories are more racy and modern. As Rita was talking, I almost felt like weeping. How special it is to talk with someone who really does focus in on the minutia of a book’s structure.
When I wrote “retrospectives” for Lawrence Dorr’s work, he said it was a “gift.” My daughter called the other day to tell me that my latest book, Tacking Forward, had parts that made her sad. I was alarmed. “No,” she said, “I just mean you wrote it so well, it evoked those feelings.” My minister father spoke about the comments people make about sermons. He said,” When they tell me ‘I liked your sermon,’ I wish I knew what it was that was meaningful.” Remembering his comment, at a writers’ group where we read our work aloud to one another and critique it, I make sure to mention what I like about their work. It’s helpful to talk about what does and doesn’t work.
I know how the plot will end in my play, unlike a basketball game, but the turns in my play’s action are much like the back and forth runs players make when they miss the hoop and get another chance. There is hope. Hope is a gift. There is pleasure in hoping.