I couldn’t believe this – is great!


Opening Words?

May 11, 2011

I’m writing a novel about a woman who is struggling to find her life and her dreams again after getting into a relationship with a man who squashed her quite thoroughly. She still has her career – she’s a philosophy professor. This allows me to put in all sorts of ideas and such – which is great fun for me. Pruning them back out again is not quite so much fun.

She will, of course, get far more from her quest than just ‘her life back’.

For those who survived my post on /first person catharsis/, this is The Novel my editor made me convert to first person.

So – I have written this. It encapsulates her story-to-date as seen from her starting point in the novel. I just can’t decide if it should be the opening or not.


I was conceived in love, born in despair, and nurtured in cold, grey duty. I escaped. I escaped into the limitless world of the human mind. All the glories of art, literature, science: ideas were my solace. Being naturally prone to skepticism, I learned early on to question what I experienced, and even what I thought I believed to be true. This did not sit well with my father. He Believed with a very capital B. Beliefs are dangerous things. What we believe is right for us is not what is right for others. My father had no imagination and no tolerance for other beliefs.

I escaped again: to college. This time my escape cut me off from the dubious securities of that closed-minded home, but gave me a glorious wide world. More ideas, and now experiences to add color, life, and vitality to the ideas I’d pondered for so long. I thought I’d found my life’s path, but then a new idea, a Belief with a smaller, but still capital B took over my mind’s freedom. My belief in a man. That I willingly subverted myself to that belief was no comfort for the return to cold, grey duty. Beliefs are dangerous things. What we believe we are is not who we truly are. Belief keeps us from becoming ourselves.

I escaped once again. I have been lucky in my escapes. But now I was afraid to trust myself. I looked back in horror at how my own body and emotions overwhelmed my mind, and wondered if it could happen again.

I have a chance to find my life again. Either to create a balance that encompasses heart, body, and mind; or to leave one or more behind. This time, though, I will not leave my mind. My career, a career of ideas, is the best of me, the me that is most true to who I am.

This of course requires that I know who I am. To Know Thyself is no easy task. It is, like skepticism or scientific inquiry, a constant process of questioning, doubting, seeking proof, and never relaxing until you can prove what is known and what is yet to know; and discern how to explore and resolve the challenge that our ignorance offers.

In science or in ourselves, the more we learn the more there is to learn. People change. I was not the girl, nor the student I had been; nor even the woman I was two years ago. I was being born again. Who would I become?

*  *  *  *  *

My fingers fell from the keys. So few words to encompass a life of almost thirty years. So cold. Emotionless. Distant. But that was how I felt. What joys, what eager enthusiasms I’d once felt now lay shrouded beneath cobwebs of bitter memory.

And yet… why had I chosen to write these words? I wiped slow tears from my cheek, and blew my nose with a hint of defiance. Something was stirring, some shift in the winds that blew my resistless shell; some nebulous tendril of life emerging from the dormant seed that was still buried somewhere inside me.

I was curious now. I would find it.

But how to start the quest?

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