Why does embarking on a new chapter in my writing life feel like both a birth and a rebirth? Part of the answer is obvious: there is a lot of labor involved, a lot of figurative blood, and real sweat and tears. When I began writing, I was a child creating illustrated poetry books, which were a secondary outlet for my ever-present need to express myself. Those first efforts rhymed. Later, as a 7th grader, I turned to haiku and got my first accolades: an Honorable Mention in the national Junior Scholastic writing contest. But acting was my true love, and after college, frustrated with my university teaching job, and longing to be on stage, I wrote my first one-person play, The Phrase in Air, on my idol, Edna St. Vincent Millay. I found this so fulfilling that I went on to write four more solo vehicles, which garnered more attention, including national and international bookings, and a glowing review in Variety, not to mention the resolution of my fears about becoming a mother (dissected in Mad Moms) with the birth of my son. But none of those efforts resulted in a sustaining professional career. So I let the theater go. I let that phase of my life die, mourned it, and moved on.
Hence, my rebirth—by definition a partial revisiting of an earlier incarnation—I was still a writer, though no longer a playwright. This rebirth required greater loss than a disappointing acting career. When my husband died in 2008, I knew that part of the way through my grief was through writing. I also knew that I would be a different person, an After Jerry version of myself, reborn as a woman alone, and as a memoirist.
I won’t catalogue the blood, sweat and tears here. Dying in Dubai does that. I will say that I believe all writing is in some sense reinvention, whether an immersion in a new genre or a means to a new life. Circumstance told me what form my writing had to take to tell the story of my loss and transformation. In memoir, I had to drop “characters” and be myself, the naked role I had in some sense been avoiding in my plays. I had to start over, completely. My memoir is both the vehicle for and document of that journey.
Have you experienced such a birth and rebirth through your writing? If so, I’d love to hear about it.