“You are not the center of the universe” is a pivotal line in my unpublished novel, written eighteen years ago. Actually, Center of the Universe was the novel’s real working title, which I do not believe I have never told anyone until now but I’m old and every day, my memory is kinder. For most of my novel’s years, I called it Spirit Song or a still favorite phrase, In-Between Dances.
Anti-Spoiler: At no time in this post or any other post will you be subjected to excerpts from any novel or story I may write. This blog may look at the 10,000 things of the Tao but my novel or story excerpts are excluded. My writing has its place, which is not my blog.
“Center of the universe” was an unusual concept in the early 1990s for me and for the small, coal mining community where I lived. Amazingly, I played a pivotal role in that community for a short period of time, if not as the center of the community, it was close enough for me forever. It doesn’t take much in a small community.
Fresh from a university setting, I was teaching the basic composition course for the community college outreach program. The course was required for anyone pursuing an associate degree but I did not let that hold me back. I launched my (and the community’s) writing life with Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones. Zen Buddhism completely captured my heart; I was so in love.
Everywhere I looked, there was analogy after analogy. In teaching Poe’s “Fall of the House of Usher,” a classic story of sentience, I nearly brought to life the house’s weeping walls and the Tao of 10,000 things. I was ingenuousness personified. At best, I only knew half of what I thought I knew but I tossed all my sentience out there.
For the next few years, former students liked to introduce me as: “This is (My Name), and she thinks this chair has feelings.” Yes, a chair was offered to a somewhat startled, formerly secure person. It kept people on their feet, and for a moment, made me the center of the universe. Only now do I appreciate how truly amazing those years were.
By the time I began writing my novel in 1994, I had pulled away from the community and in all fairness, it had pulled away from me, too. We had reason to separate—it seems fair to say we had forgotten our sentient selves—it is so long ago who knows whether there was any reason left in any of us. We just were.
Regardless, my novel was about finding community again; I wanted to discover where we had gone so wrong, all of us. Somewhere after 60,000 words, my protagonist was informed: “You are not the center of the Universe.” Truly, I remember the moment.
As a writer, I recognized the importance of the sentence but as a human being, I sensed enlightenment, albeit briefly. It would take another seventeen years to fully appreciate the center of the universe but there was light, and toward that, I moved.
In 2011, I read Stephen Hawking’s books—Grand Design and A Briefer History of Time—and learned of the multiverse, a considerable blow to my centered universe–momentarily–for I found the joy of quantum entanglement and Oneness. The reality of joy is once you experience it, you move in that direction always. Dark just does not have the same hold in Oneness.
However, Oneness translates hard for a writer, sometimes.
While I had known for a while—sixteen years, eleven months, and twenty days—that I might glean only dribs and drabs from my first attempt at a novel, I always believed I had the center of the universe. Not so. Seems it really was a bit of fiction. And there was something even worse: my center of the universe was a Little Darling, in writing, a death knell.
True to form, I kept silent about my Little Darling. Perhaps I hoped I would forget there was a multiverse–I promise you there is real merit in this possibility–yet, sentient human or no, once the heart knows, it knows.
Yesterday, my universe imploded, victim of my first assignment in a writing workshop: write the idea of my novel in one sentence of 25 words or less. Surprisingly, I managed to find a sentence, not a cogent one, but the center of the universe was gone.
Note: For one of the best explanations about Little Darlings and how to get help for this alarmingly prevalent addiction, please read Piper Bayard and Kristen Lamb, proud sponsors of Little Darlings Anonymous.
ROW80 Wednesday Word Marking:
My word total for January was 8250 with my goal of writing at least 250 words per day; in February, I began writing in 30-minute stretches to focus my writing and the word total for the month is 9814; in March, my current word total is 2118. My total Round of Words so far is 21,182, which is a raw total, meaning a lot of free writing/brainstorming with a goal of writing consistently, which I have accomplished. I generate an additional 1200 to 2000 words per week as blogs, fiction, and nonfiction.
For the remaining days of this ROW80, I am focusing on scheduling my blogs so I am not on “deadline” ever or always on deadline. Oneness is confusing in this regard.
Bob Mayer’s Idea and Conflict Workshop is just incredible, and I mean that sincerely. I can honestly say I have not been this excited about writing in years. There is true joy in my work.
9 thoughts on “Center of the Universe”
Kill my darlings?! Never! Well, OK, maybe soon. Sniff. So glad your writing is on fire — awesome! I’d love to hear your one sentence summary!
Fabulous word count! You’re rocking this ROW!
I usually take Monday and schedule my blog posts for the week. I like planning ahead and knowing where it’s going. That frees me up on the other days to concentrate on other tasks. Now and then, something else pops up and prompts me to change my plan, but then the written post just goes back in the queue — saved for a day when I’m sick or on vacation.
Best wishes for finishing strong!
Ah, but Julie, I am a pantser–an old one at that–so planning ahead is probably not going to happen for me. It has been a life-long struggle. However, writing regularly does give me rough drafts for posts so I am doing better. I remember Kristen mentioning in the blogging class–weren’t you in wana711?–about having blogs ready to go, much as you do. So, know you’re admired and I hold you up there as role model.
Thanks for stopping by.
I found this very moving – you are obviously at a point of great change so go with the flow!
Writing offers us so much. Honestly, I don’t know what I would do without it in my life. Thanks for stopping by.
Oh Karen my dear friend. As I hurt one day and burst with joy the next it’s so hard for me to remember that I Am Not the Center of the Universe. My feelings can run so deep that I can’t even imagine that there is something more center in the universe then my heart.
Could it be possible that we each are the center of our own universe, and only what we allow in can become a part of our universe? If I look at the stars, nature, God, animals and all the beauty that I can see, I truly know there is so much more above and around me, but I don’t often look that far. I’m learning more from you every day, I thank you for that.
Keep up your beautiful and life changing writing, You are wonderful!
Well, my friend, together we all are part of the “Source” is what I have come to believe, which may be just a redefining of the center of the universe but when I remember we are all connected, then the center fades, as it should, I think. We are capable of so much, and as you point out, there is so much beauty in life everywhere that is almost overwhelming to be a part of it but oh so exciting as well.
Truly, you are a light in my life, my friend.
Oh, this is absolutely priceless, Karen! I was not familiar with Little Darlings Anonymous – boy, it nailed me, but good!! When I reflect back on my own Little Darlings in my unpublished novel, I don’t know whether to giggle or scream ~~ either way, I’d no doubt sound as maniacal as I probably felt while writing the damn thing! The center of my universe was, alas, a Little Darling as well — how very, very much we have in common, my friend! And – like you – Zen and Writing Down the Bones kept me focused. Actually, I do miss those days. There was a certain joy in my smugness as I cosied up with my Little Darlings …… one thing did remain constant, however: I still maintain that a chair has feelings!!
I’m with you on the chair, Lura. Truthfully, I never sit down without remembering; sentience has never been the same for me! There is such energy in Writing Down the Bones, as you say, and I don’t know of another book where writing is so infectious. You can imagine students with this book. They got excited, really excited, and while they didn’t want to become writers, I like to think they found a tool for life but you know what an optimist I am.
As for Little Darlings, oh how hard they die, somewhat like Virginia Woolf’s Angel in the House from Room of One’s Own, as you know. Although center of the universe is gone from the novel, I will always remember all it gave me for all those years, truly remarkable.
Much love to you,