I could say the wind and rain woke me up tonight, and that would be true, but even more, the lack of words woke me up. The emptiness, the gnawing, like hunger pangs, but they are writer pangs. Writer angst. Writer loneliness. I can't sleep when I feel all the words bubbling up, wanting to be heard, and yet, every time I even come close, I stop myself. Ironically, as I was looking over this post, I managed to delete it in one fell swoop, but luckily had a version of it saved that I could salvage. It felt like a sign, though: one step forward, two steps back to a blank page, and that emptiness, so wide open and vast, so seductive, sometimes far more so than the thrill of composing something, even something that isn't exactly what I'd hoped it to be at the start.
This week since my book party has been a blur, largely because writing has taken the form of writing lists, seemingly endless lists. I'm good at lists; they make me feel like I am moving forward in a positive direction. I'm a fan of lists, but they can also be debilitating, because sometimes I sit and look at my list and think, I'll never do all that. The other day I could barely even get up, and when I did saw that my hours late sleeping in had meant a missed writing opportunity about the topic du jour. I'm slowly, late to the game, realizing that I could be someone people turn to for those kinds of pieces, that I can also keep pitching my heart out to become someone editors turn to. Right now, I'm not that person, because I've been playing it safe, and thereby keeping myself in this crazy cycle where I chase after the small things and assume I have no business going after the bigger things. It's a tenuous way of life, and it's why I'm awake at five a.m. Lately, the thinking has been, I shouldn't bother because this won't amount to anything. When I type it out like that, it sounds ludicrous, and yet there it is, what's kept me so far away from my goals and dreams or even basic tasks the last few days: fear.
A friend posted this quote on Facebook the other day:
"I've been absolutely terrified every moment of my life and I've never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do." Georgia O'Keeffe
I've been thinking about it a lot, because the things I want to do are the things that terrify me. Tamsin Flowers wrote a wonderful post at One Handed Writers called "On writing and self-doubt"
that tackles so much of my problem. It's funny because I have several paid venues these days, along with this unpaid blog, where I can write whatever I want. I almost put "whatever I want" in quotes, but the reality is, I have free reign over my topic choices. I can also of course pitch new ideas, which I do as often as I can. But lately I've just doubted my abilities. I catch a moment of excitement and then talk myself out of it. And then, because I'm me, I try to guilt trip myself. If you ever want to _____, you have to work work work no matter what.
That blank can be anything from "pay down your debt" to "become a mom," and they all fit. It's hard too because I'm partnered with someone with a steady 9 to 5 job and want to prove my worth, both so that I'm pulling my weight financially and because I need that for my own sense of myself as writer. It's never enough to "have written," it's all about what you're going to write next.
So as I listen to the rain pound my windows, getting ready to go into New York for the fourth time this month, to visit a family member at the hospital where I was born, I want to acknowledge all the blessings this year has brought, but get real with myself about the fact that I have to make my own luck too. I have to get back out there and try, and keep trying, and believing. I think the belief is the part that falls away for me first. So this week, before we bunker down for our Thanksgiving feasting, just me and my guy, I want to try to get back all that eagerness I had 20 years ago, or 10. 2004 was pretty much the year my current career started taking shape, the year I went from typist to magazine editor, the year I became a sex columnist for an internationally read alt weekly, the year I started a cupcake blog. It's funny to me because I have changed a lot in the intervening 10 years, hopefully mostly for the positive, but I hope that I can regain a bit of my late twenties, or even teenage, gumption when it comes to writing.
The last few days scared me with how easily I pretty much gave up, despite lying in bed at night or waking up full of ideas. But I haven't given up entirely. I have too many stories I
need to tell. So here's to a week of words to be thankful for, but even more so, making the effort, despite the storminess I'll probably always have inside me.