Writing is My Unreliable Lover

Writing_BlogI am a fitful writer. I am happiest when I write, but I often don’t write for weeks, even months at a time. During those times, I can feel myself losing grip of my art, my light, my happiness. I doubt my work. Then life takes over, and I let it. I’ll reorganize the entire house, clean the windows, wipe the baseboards, visit the grocery and hardware stores, take the kids on an all-day outing. I pretend it’s fine; life is just busy. The truth is that life is busy. But it’s not fine. Not writing is like telling my lover it’s okay for him to leave for a month and not call or write. I tell him, “I can keep busy. It’s okay, I’ll be fine.”

No. I won’t.

Well-meaning friends have proposed that writing in fits and starts is just how I work. I have fruitful periods and barren periods. Sometimes the muse just isn’t there. Well, screw that. My testy muse is an unreliable bitch and I need to find a way to forge on without her.

This last week, for the first time in over a decade, I considered giving up writing. I have a full memoir manuscript begging me from the shelf to just finish her, revise her, connect a few more dots. It’s an incredible story of faith and love and magic. And I sat around this week and said out loud, tears rolling down my cheeks, “It’s a stupid idea. I don’t even know why I’m writing it.”

Of course, the little honest bird in my heart knew that this was ridiculous, just a toe-dip into despair to see how it felt to give up. It was a reaching down, a superficial effort to hit bottom so I could sit down at the god-blessed computer and write something.

I guess it worked, because here I am. But I’m exhausted. I’m wet and worn like a twisted rag. I feel the pull, right this very second, to drift to my bed and take a nap. But with each word I type, I’m pushing away the blank page, trying to stare down the dark place, fists raised for a fight.

Essays I want you to read…

…if you haven’t already. These are older essays, but worth reading again and savoring. Both authors have gone on to do stupendous things. 

I’m working on a short opinion piece about mothering daughters. It’s coming along. I’m also busy doing some major tweaks to the memoir structure. It feels akin to taking a truck engine apart, laying out all the pieces, and then reassembling them so that they’ll fit inside a Corvette.

Oh, and some good news. A story of mine got picked up by a pretty snazzy magazine. I’ll reveal which one later on in the fall. Until then, I’ll keep on plugging.

As if a miracle had come

A small excerpt from the memoir in progress:

Bunker followed me from room to room. When the house was empty, we lay on my gray bedroom carpet, his shedding puppy hair entwining with my damaged blonde mess. I touched the wet soft of his nose. He licked my finger, then rolled onto his back. When his eyes drooped, I watched his eyelashes flutter long after they closed. It was a love affair of survival. With him, I began to think I could venture out into the world again. I thought of the days I couldn’t rise from the couch or the time I sat clutching the knife in the basement. I thought of how warm the wind felt on my ankles the day I opened the car door on the highway. It terrified me that I ever felt that desperate. As if a miracle had come, the lid on that endless sorrow clamped shut with this dog by my side. Something about him—some wordless magic he brought—began to close that chapter of my life forever.

Fight Your Way Through

The day after I read the memoir manuscript & announced this site on Facebook, I got a rejection from a well known literary journal for a short story I submitted back in February. The rejection wasn’t a five paragraph treatise on why they almost published the story but didn’t. It was a one line, “We’ll pass” e-mail that made me wonder why I’m toiling away at my desk on a daily basis for that kind of response.

I promptly ate a dozen cookies. Then forwarded the rejection to my husband and mom. Then sulked and made my kids play by themselves while I sat on the couch reading a book. I’ve been rejected plenty before. Getting rejected is a big part of this process. It’s just that this particular “no” felt cruelly timed. I was feeling so good about the book, so elated by all of my supportive friends, and the universe had to go and toss a bucket of cold water on all that hope.

After a day of contemplating, moping, cookies, etc., I realize that in the end, I suppose this is why I do it. Because it’s really, really hard.  Because again and again, especially with the memoir, I’m going to have to defend why it’s an important story to tell.  My notoriously thin skin just will not cut it in this endeavor. So today I will put away the cookies and remember that all these little disasters will help prepare me when it comes time to really fight for this book, for this story I so deeply believe in.

Hope

I just finished reading the memoir manuscript for the first time. Even though it’s an incomplete first draft and it has so much work ahead of it, I feel like I could weep because it’s good. It’s really good. And, of course, it’s awful in places.

But really, the story and the arc and what’s happening is so real and true and amazing that I feel daunted and humbled by the progress. I realize that I’m really only about halfway through, but judging the distance until I’m finished doesn’t seem important right now. The important part is that I feel hopeful. I can do this, and this story is so important and worth telling. Isn’t that a miracle?

I miss you, Bunker. This one’s for you.

Amen.

(Remind me to read this tomorrow when I’m thwacking my head on my desk.)