At the Chicago Lit Fest, I got the chance to hear author Edith Pearlman whose latest collection of stories, Binocular Vision, has received many well deserved accolades. She became a writer rather ‘late’ in life, and found success and achievement as a writer even later. Dressed stylishly in black on a hot Chicago morning, with short cropped, grayish-black hair and a serious, but not stern face that turned easily into a knowing and wry smile, she faced a room full of admirers and would-be writers. During the audience talk-back time, the inevitable question was raised about where she “got her ideas” (as if there is an idea store somewhere for shopping: look at the bargain I found at IDEA, you mean IKEA? no, IDEA!). Then there was a two part question (which is actually cheating --look, people, one question per customer, geez) about how she begins to write a story and how she knows when to END one. Her stories are known for unresolved endings. Ms Pearlman, politely listened for what must have been the thousandth such query during her career, and with a twinkle in her eye, responded, “I like the middle the best.” She went on to say that she STARTS most stories in the middle.
Her answer struck a chord in me on many levels. I realize how difficult it is for me, personally, to start any project where I should. From writing to sermonizing to household chores, I always get caught up in the midst of it before I take the time to go back and begin at the beginning or to think it through or to figure out where it’s going. I find myself in the middle a LOT… in the middle of arguments, in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of opinions, in the middle of relationships, in the middle of ideas, in the middle of sentences. In fact, I think I was somewhere in the middle of raising our children before I figured out how I should have started.
But with Edith’s declaration, I now feel affirmed. I will no longer feel the guilt of starting in the middle of things. I will embrace the middle. I will act as if the middle IS the beginning AND the end. No more awkward introductions or heartbreaking goodbyes – we are in the middle!
Alright, people let’s get going! And we will not begin at the beginning like all the pundits recommend. We will start in the middle.