My writing has with scant exception focused on places other than my home. Settings have varied from Australia to Medieval England to the midwest, but never have I tackled the Lone Star State. Avoidance isn’t so much the issue as that I have never found much to say about it. Texas is everything and nothing like the perception and I am at once too close and too removed to deconstruct it in a meaningful way.
The story of my life, though scattered all over the map, is primarily set and informed by West Texas. For most people that location alludes to Friday Night Lights and with good reason: the book, film, and show capture much of the essence of this part of the whole. For a more articulate dissertation on this, take a gander at Jacob Clifton’s analysis. He is spot on, although his experience somewhat diverges from mine even though we are roughly the same age and know many of the same people. (I’m not sure I can term Clifton a friend so much as an uber-intellectual I had the pleasure of knowing on a friendly basis during the formative years of my adolescence.)
A few weeks ago I found myself at the fall festival for my daughter’s private school. Standing in 90-degree heat, surrounded by an artificial facade of autumn, my synapses began firing off in a frantic, desperate way. My memories of childhood and adolescence seemed to smash cut with the present day. It was as if I suddenly had a hyper-real vision of West Texas life. After years of avoiding writing about Texas, I now had something I had to say.
This month as I tackle my novel-length work, I am also tackling my own identity as place and, by extension, many of my demons. My first week word tally comes in at about 5,000, which is not fantastic, but the work is a greater challenge than I anticipated. I have cast myself as a shape shifter, morphing from insider to outsider, critic to worshiper, visitor to native. I find I am on the thin fence between reality and fiction, balancing as best I am able.