The Fig Tree
“I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lade crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I wouldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at me feet.”
Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar.
This quote has always stayed with me since I first read The Bell Jar. Initially because it resonates with the choices that we all face at such a young age – should I stay on at school, should I go to University, what should I study, what career do I want to pursue. I can completely empathise with the feeling of so much possibility, where you choose a path because you have to do something, and let all of the other potential futures fall away. I did this. I choose to study law because that it what I had decided I would do when I thought being a Lawyer was all about being able to have the last word in an argument. I choose to start working in the law, because that is what people with law degrees do. I choose to qualify as a Solicitor because I knew I was capable of doing the job, so I might as well be paid for it. I set myself on that path and it was not until much later that I became aware of all of the other possibilities and opportunities that could have been open to me if only I had looked a little closer.
Now, I think the fig tree from this quote is representative of my feelings about writing. I have written stories my entire life. As a child, I would write stories in my notebooks before I could even write the alphabet. I have notebooks bursting with ideas, names and phrases, potential long stories and potential short stories. But like Esther in The Bell Jar, I sit in the crotch of the fig tree and I don’t develop them into anything remotely resembling completion. There comes a point with every story where I lose the belief in my ability to complete it, and even when working on it, the back of my brain is always shouting at me about the other ideas that I am not working on.
I have never really found a way to overcome this. I am hoping that this blog will help me nurture all of those little buds on the fig tree into ripe, juicy fruit, and allow me to catch them before they fall to the ground.