Wednesday, May 9, 2012

An Act of Surrender

An excerpt from my memoir, Acts of Surrender: A Writer's Memoir...

It’s May 6. I have just finished breakfast, and as I stare into my empty coffee cup, I contemplate my immediate future. It has been less than twenty-four hours since I completed a final draft of my novel The SunQuest and, along with it, an odyssey that has occupied nearly one-third of my life: Eighteen years ago I surrendered to the words that would become the first draft of The MoonQuest, a story I knew nothing about, a story that would launch a fantasy trilogy that I did not yet know existed. Now that I have written “The End,” both to The SunQuest and the trilogy, what’s next for me?

As I stare into that coffee cup, I am certain that another draft of this memoir, of Acts of Surrender, must follow The Q’ntana Trilogy on my creative agenda. How can it not when The SunQuest is, among other things, about Ben’s coming to terms with his past? How can it not when Ben’s story, like Q’nta’s and Toshar’s before him in The StarQuest and The MoonQuest, is also my story? Hardly a day went by, while I worked on The SunQuest, that I failed to notice a parallel between Ben’s life and mine, between what he discovers through reliving his journey on the page and what I have already discovered through living mine on these pages. 

At the same time, I ask myself: Wouldn’t it make sense to wait a month before taking on a new draft of Acts of Surrender? Between the Q’ntana screenplays and novels and the early drafts of this memoir, I have been writing nonstop for nearly two years. Maybe it’s time for a break. Besides, I have a business trip to Las Vegas coming up in a few weeks. Wouldn’t it make sense to wait until I get back? 
You would think that after writing three fantasies where conventional sense is an elusive commodity, not to mention penning two drafts of a memoir that exposes similar threads in my own life, I would have more sense than to ask questions about sense. Apparently, I don’t.

The coffee cup is still empty, and my mind wanders, away from my creative life and on to my life — not that it’s altogether possible to separate the two. I have now been back in Albuquerque for eighteen months. A 2010 move from here to Los Angeles ended after ten weeks, when I felt a call to return to New Mexico. Through this, my third sojourn in Albuquerque, I have become aware how much my life here has come to resemble my 1994-95 time in rural Nova Scotia: a hermit-like existence where little occurs beyond my writing. In Nova Scotia, my focus was on the first two drafts of The MoonQuest; once they were finished, I found myself back in Toronto, my monkish tendencies forgotten.

There is, however, one significant difference between these two periods in my life: In Nova Scotia, I had no conscious desire ever to leave. I thought I had rebirthed myself on the East Coast and, when the call came for me to go back to the big city, I was initially startled and dismayed. Here in Albuquerque, I have never stopped longing to get back to L.A., to resume a life that has felt on hold since I returned here. 

Suddenly, the opening scene of The MoonQuest pushes my mental wanderings aside. In it, the dreamwalker Na’an interrupts an elderly Toshar, who has long resisted writing his story. 

“It is not for me to boast of my exploits,” Toshar argues. But Na’an is firm. “It is your story to tell,” she says. “It is for you to fix it in ink, to set the truth down for all to read.” 

I cannot move on to other realms and set off on other journeys until I have told my story, I hear myself speak out loud, paraphrasing Toshar’s thoughts in The MoonQuest. The words catch in my throat, and I’m gripped by an emotion so strong that I find myself on verge of tears.

I can’t know what those other realms and journeys might be. I can’t know whether, in another parallel to my time in Nova Scotia, they will mark the end of my creative retreat and launch me back into the world’s bustle — this time to L.A. instead of Toronto. What I can do is recognize the charge I experienced and the truth that underlies it: Like Toshar, I must tell my story, this story, or I will not be free to move forward with my life. 

I know one other thing: Whatever the “sense” of the matter, I cannot wait a month to begin. In the act of surrender that is the book, I must make Acts of Surrender my primary focus, and I must begin now...in that realm where all stories begin: Once upon a time...

• An excerpt from Acts of Surrender: A Writer's Memoir (c) 2012 Mark David Gerson

Photos: Coffee mug and L.A. billboard by Mark David Gerson. Flag is the Nova Scotia provincial flag. MoonQuest book cover designed by Angela Farley. Acts of Surrender book cover: Ojai, CA; photo by Sander Dov Freedman.


4 comments:

Karen Walker said...

This post has me on the verge of tears, Mark David. It is an honor to witness your journey.
Karen

Mark David Gerson said...

Thanks, Karen. That means a lot, coming as it does from a fellow writer and memoirist!

Andrew said...

Wow. What Karen said! This is a powerful post and so open. I'm glad to see you have finished the trilogy. Tough work. And to tackle a memoir as well takes courage. I've written small bits of memoir and it's exposing your innermost, dark secrets for the world to see. Kudos, kudos.

Mark David Gerson said...

Thanks, Andrew. I appreciate it. As I suggested in the post (which is, at present, the opening of the book), I'm not sure I really have a choice!!