(The following essay was written, saved and closed, April 14, 2014; resurrected, revised and posted, December 4, 2014)
Is it possible for a character to live in the minds of two authors who have never crossed paths? Or is that as preposterous as one child being born from the womb of two mothers? I saw my Tommy on the pages of a published book today — not with my byline and a far cry from the words I once used to tell my, his, story — but there he was, at least in name and notion.
Chris Ware’s Tommy got the penny from the bank as a little boy and received it back in change at a diner in his old age. My Tommy got the penny in a tip as a teenage waiter and received it back at a rock concert in his middle age. His Tommy has the backing of A. A. Knopf Publishing. My Tommy has the backing of the Office Max copier paper upon which variations of his story are printed.
I closed the box lid months ago when I moved all my notebooks and rubber-band fastened stacks of drafts north with me. Sealed shut and likely never to return to the light of day are hundreds upon hundreds upon thousands of edited and revised words with differing points-of-view and degrees of conflict. Why not just recycle all that paper or wad it up to use as fire starter? Why hang on to the dozen plus rewrites of a story that had once consumed me and now lies dormant, taking only the space it occupies in the corner of the home office where I seldom go in the pursuit of creativity?
Like the ashes of a deceased loved one imprisoned in a urn on a shelf, never to rise to life again, but kept because someone who cared for that person just can’t let go, are the pages of my unpublished novel to me. Ashes. Passed away. Separate of any soul, but mine.