their written brothers
bold dancing partner
words from my lips
their written brothers
bold dancing partner
I want to get something in paper form -- preferably a novel -- published in 2016. That's my goal. There I said it.
I realize though that at the rate I am going, there is no way that this will happen. I am just way too busy. For example, this morning:
1. Woke up and checked to see if I had any notifications on Twitter.
2. Got excited that there were two notifications. Got deflated when I realized it was my husband favoriting and retweeting me just to be nice.
3. Got determined to get real notifications from strangers I never met. Resultingly, searched the internet for a picture of Hostess's Ho Ho cakes so I could #foodan80sband. (Get it Ho Ho's, instead of Go Go's!)
4. Sat down to write a blog post. Wrote a few sentences. Erased them in total self loathing.
5. Made myself a cup of tea. While up gave the dogs a treat for no reason, which totally went against what the trainer said in his $300 lesson.
6. Sat down again to write a blog post. Instead, got caught up in a Gawker article about Busta Rhymes throwing a protein drink at a fellow gym member. (The reporter didn't disclose Busta's motivation, but I suspect the other guy didn't wipe down the equipment when he was done!)
7. Helped my son work through his breakfast dilemma of what to eat. After deciding on oatmeal, we had to regroup because of the July 7, 2013 expiration date next to Larry the Quaker Oats guy. Crisis averted when we found a bag of non-stale gluten-free oats in the baking drawer.
8. Checked Twitter. Still no new notifications. Realized the smattering of strangers following me don't appreciate my genius.
9. Got up to taste the oatmeal. While up, got my phone which was charging in the other room. Saw there were no messages and realized my friends and family don't appreciate my genius either!
10. Sat down to write this list. Searched for a picture of the Bronte sisters. Found this quote by James Michener, an author whose novels sold 75 million worldwide. For the record, he died about five years or so before either Twitter or Facebook were invented.
P.S. - Will start working on my novel as soon as I find a room for rent
without internet connection!
Taking the idiom literally, when you "get back on the horse" it means that some large beast actively threw you to the ground and, in spite of your hesitation, you get back on the son of a bitch. In the idiomatic sense as in the literal sense, despite the difficulties you've encountered, your determination to go forward is stronger than your fear of getting thrown off course again.
However, in my case of not blogging for a month, I wasn't thrown from any horse. Instead, I haven't written because I brought back a little something from my recent trip that I didn't anticipate: self-doubt. Self-doubt as in "I have nothing worthy to write about." Self-doubt as in "why would anyone want to read what I have to write?" Self-doubt as in "who am I to blog?"
I can see why historically emotions such as jealousy have been personified, because this self-doubt is very, very tangible. Instead of being a green-eyed monster, however, my Self Doubt is more like a muscular, stoic bouncer outside an exclusive nightclub. You know, the kind of hulking guy who stands there, arms crossed, not saying a word, his look alone conveying "do you really think you are coming in to here?" And as this Self Doubt stares you in the face, you shift uncomfortably in your high heels questioning everything about yourself until you come to the conclusion that of course you don't belong in there.
So for almost a month, I have allowed this taciturn, phantom bully to be in control, becoming an impassable obstacle to my writing. It took a chance encounter this past weekend with a stranger at a carwash for me to realize it was time to do something about this.
While I was waiting for my car to be dried, a woman sat down next to me. Instantly, we eased into conversation, about how we both loved the car wash we were at to how she met her husband. By the time we walked out to the attendants waving their rags signaling our cars were done, we felt a connection. When she asked for a way to contact me, I gave her my blog URL. This piqued her interest.
"A blog? My friends have always said I should write," she responded.
"Why don't you?" I asked.
"Four letters: F - E - A - R," she said, as she drove off in her shiny, clean car.
This is when I realized that I'm not the only one being ruled by Self Doubt, and this realization lit something inside of me. In that instant, I pictured rows and rows of people sitting mournfully, not painting or writing or dancing or asking someone out because of Self Doubt. I saw words disappear from books and music go silent from instruments. I saw paintings being drained of their color. I felt a well of creativity and innovation and discovery dry up as men and women and children and teens felt overpowered by this emotional ruffian. I saw my life past me by, void of something that I love doing.
I had it. It was time to face the bully. I called in my horse, grabbed its reigns, and went back to writing.
I know, of course, that there will be days that Self Doubt will try to keep me out of the nightclub again and that's okay. You know why? I don't need to be let in. I've decided to kick off my shoes and dance unabashedly right where I am, for everyone to see and join in.
Sewn into the quilt of my childhood memories is a chaotic thread created by my mother’s schizophrenia, though no one back then used that term to describe her condition. Instead, my scared grandparents kept their daughter’s diagnosis in a Pandora’s box, not understanding that the insidious force had already escaped, affecting everyone in close contact.
So I never really knew why my mother mumbled to herself or saw things that weren’t there or broke the silence of our shared bedroom with her piercing screams. As hard as my subconscious tried every night to make sense of the daytime chaos through recurring nightmares, I would always awake vastly unsettled, paradoxically craving both complete order and fantastical escape.
I can’t recall the exact year, perhaps it was in third grade, when I was given entry into just such a magical world: the school library. I can still smell the heady combination of dusty paper and waxed wood. My fingertips can almost touch the low cases filled with rows and rows of plastic-covered books in a room, bright and open, punctuated with colorful posters telling us to “make friends with books.”
On that beautiful, fateful day decades past, our teacher left us in the care of the school librarian, a woman whose features are lost to me. Instead, in my mind she has become an amalgam of every kindly face I’ve encountered. It was she who inducted us into the secret society of the dewey decimal system, a system of classifying and ordering and numbering knowledge which immediately comforted and excited me.
To gain entry into this club we needed a membership card – our library cards – and the librarian wouldn’t hand them over until we understood the weight of responsibility that comes with being allowed to borrow a book. No religious man’s sermon has ever affected me as deeply.
It was through these books – “The Cricket in Times Square,” “The Littles,” “A Wrinkle in Time” – that I fell hard for the written word, as hard as any school-girl crush. When I read these books, against the tree at lunchtime or on the green, striped velvet couch in our small living room, the chaos around me quieted and almost disappeared. In its place, I found imaginary lands and real cities and broken people. I found reclusive, female writers like Emily Bronte and Emily Dickinson surrounded by isolation, their words an anchor to the world. These women, these Emilys, were my real companions, because they – not my friends with whole mothers – understood a world of illness and chaos and loneliness.
But like a school girl who loses touch with her first, true love, I lost my way throughout middle and high school. It took until my college years to realize that I deeply missed the written word and its inherent power to transport and comfort and disturb. But my childhood crush had now turned to a grown-up obsession as I longed to master it and manipulate it and make it mine through my own storytelling.
And I tried, mostly failing, writing stories and poems for my various journalism and English classes. My failure came in great part in not understanding that a story’s beauty is in the words that are left at your feet. It took one of my professors, a small man with a bowtie who quoted Henry James, to hand me back one of my papers covered in crossed-out sentences. He sat with me patiently in his office and went line by line through my essay. Gerunds and adjectives felt the sting of his sharp pen the most. Left behind were words that now had a clear path to find their story.
This exercise enlightened and emboldened me. It wasn’t long after that I wrote a story for one of my fiction English classes, a story which provided a glimpse into a pancake-house waitress’s day. Even now, I want to giggle over the excitement I felt when the professor chose to read it aloud to the class.
(Sadly I gave the paper, with its large, red A+ to the owner of the restaurant where I worked because he enjoyed the story so much, never to have it returned. I imagine the paper frayed and dirty sitting in a landfill, its A+ reaching toward the sky.)
I could tell myself that I didn’t pursue writing after college because it was too financially risky, but that would only be a half truth. The other half is that it was too emotionally risky as well, and I wasn’t ready or able to go there. So I entered the world of nonprofit where my writing would sneak in through form letters, departmental procedures, and grants.
This went on for years like an arranged marriage where you grow to really like the person you’re with, but not quite enough to say you are in love. But just like a marriage, I had a midlife crisis. Maybe it was because people around me started dying, and no matter how hard I ran I could still feel the Grim Reaper’s breath on my own neck. Or perhaps it was because I felt like a fraud, telling my kids to ignite their passions and jump into the flames, as I sat with my own matches tucked away. Whatever the case, one day not too long ago I made the decision to devote myself to my lover. I made the decision to write and to be a writer and to not only leave a trail of unspoken words at my feet, but to hopefully leave pages of words long after I can’t outrun the man with the scythe any longer.
I'm just trying to figure it out, like everyone else.