The Only Book Worth Writing

It has been a season of activity. I have a few articles that have been placed in recent months (view “Being and Belonging in the West” and “Recover, Redeem, Rejoice, Repeat” here; the third piece is available in a new anthology titled Red Rock Testimony). I have two further articles in the works. Our arborist business is going full tilt, and I’ve been grateful to return to work with my husband on occasion. We’re a good team. There is the garden to tend, the chickens to feed, and our daughter races through it all with an ever-expanding mind and heart. We’ve managed to mix in a few family wilderness adventures, too, including a river trip and an alpine backpacking weekend. I’m also planning a series of women’s retreats – collaborating with a friend – slated to begin this summer. More information will be forthcoming on this site and at Murmuration.

Summer is a season of abundance, and that is especially true this year.

But what about the Mike Miksche book? Where is that amidst all this activity and bounty?

That’s a good question.

JFK 1963

JFK sketch by Mike Miksche

For a year now, I’ve had the most amazing of research assistants. I can say in all honesty that she knows the material better than I do. Her generosity has irrevocably altered the focus of this project – and the focus upon it in my life. I am forever grateful. Thanks to her efforts, I’ve been more passionate about Miksche’s life than ever before, more immersed in his existence, more enthralled with his path. Late this winter, I knew it was time finally weave all the details together and lend form to a life long ago faded from memory.

I went away on a writing retreat. I quickly knocked out 10,000 words. I was on top of the world. Then I got stuck. And then, even worse, I realized that all that I’d written was writing down the wrong track. My compass bearing was off, and I’d wandered off into a dark wood.

So, I started over. And I started over again. Each approach was not quite the right one. I’m still writing my way to the right one. Every day. Again and again.

Wind-up Man and Woman

Artwork by Mike Miksche

I share this as an act of vulnerability. I share this as a testament to what really goes into a book. Yes, there are the words, there is the creativity, the vision, the passion. But behind the poetry, there is often soul-searching. There is often gnashing of teeth, tearing of hair, flailing of thought and heart. There is often quiet despair. The solitary stillness of doubt.

I have great doubts about my ability to write this book.

Who am I to believe that I can write about what it is to be gay, to have gone to war, to struggle with alcoholism and an unruly mind? To write about Manhattan, life at midcentury, the advertising and art worlds? Who am I to believe that I can come to know – not just understand, but know – any of this? How can I possibly inhabit this man’s world? How can I speak of it convincingly and, more importantly, truthfully?

Yet, I continue to come back to the words of the great thinker and writer Hélène Cixous: “The only book that is worth writing is the one we don’t have the courage or strength to write. The book that hurts us (we who are writing), that makes us tremble, redden, bleed.”

That is this book. Hands down.

I am still in the dark wood, but I am also still so alive for this story, willing to walk as many miles as it takes to find the the path – the words – to telling Mike Miksche’s story. Not a day goes by without this project being in my awareness, without my great-uncle filling my thoughts, without my heart straining for the kind of knowing necessary to truly speak his life.

Amidst doubt, the research continues. I am grateful to so many for their help: Gayle Rubin, Catherine Johnson-Roehr, Scott Bartlett, John Connolly, Jakob VanLammeren, Robert Mainardi and Trent Dunphy, Noah Barth, Michael Schreiber, and many others. And big, big thanks to Jessica Campbell for her role as Researcher Extraordinaire.

However, I’m interested in more stories, more glimpses into Mike Miksche’s life. Did you know him? Do you have stories about him? Artwork by him? Did he touch your life in any way? If so, please contact me through this website.

This story will be told. I will tremble. I will bleed. But it will happen.

 

One thought on “The Only Book Worth Writing

  1. You may struggle thinking you need to know what it was to live his life but I think telling the story is enough. No one can write about anyone’s life in that way as each of us is different. Even if you share some of the things he went through it would be totally from your eyes and heart. His life was probably difficult for the time period he lived and yet there is always conflict and problems to confront us. Tell us his story Jen, for the reasons it has been so important to you.

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