has a great newsletter for writers with ideas and information that I always really appreciate. In this latest one, she writes about "Scaling the Learning Curve," a topic I confront almost all the time, especially lately as I try to figure out how to write a book proposal and also generally how to move to the "next level." Big changes are in the works, little ones too, and I'll probably be hiring some people to help me or at least enlisting help on various projects in the coming months. It's not that I want to throw money out the window, certainly, and am really trying to make my peace with money--what I need it for, and what I don't, and figuring out what's valuable to me--but I do think that there is something to be said sometimes for paying someone versus having someone "help" you for free, especially if they're your friend. It just feels more professional and I think it makes me feel more empowered to ask for changes, like with my website, when I have a business relationship with someone. It makes a difference to me, though I also, in all the areas I need help with--website, cleaning, organizing, fitness--I don't necessarily want to be totally reliant on someone else, but able to work on it myself as well. When I get back from my trip and turn in all the due/overdue projects hanging over my head, I plan to really work on all these areas because I just more and more don't like the person I am because of these problems; it's not stuff I care to go into here, but there are things that eat away at me, that I've fucked up and need to figure out how to fix before I go insane. Because it really only takes a second or so before I just see my failures staring me in the face and have a little meltdown, before I start berating myself and just feel so awful. Sometimes it's the daily things, like not being able to find my building pass in my bag once I'm already late, or bigger issues, and these are all things I've probably grappled with for over a decade, and I hope turning 30 is going to push me in the direction of being an adult, of not doing everything half-assed, last minute, because I've run out of time, etc.
Anyway, my point was that Kelly had some wise words:Don’t be afraid to put your dreams into practice and to try something new. Sure, it may feel scary or awkward or uncomfortable at first. But best case scenario, you find that this new activity gives you a satisfaction nothing else has—and you want to
do it again! Guess what? The second time is easier (and often better) than the first. Worst case scenario? You try something new—and you fail. Or you discover you don’t like it. Or that it isn’t worth the time and effort involved. Either way, you’ve learned something new—and you’re probably no worse off for having tried it.
It's so scary, especially for me, to try anything new. I get very stuck in my ways, and yet in my mind, I am constantly wanting to do more, to grow and expand, and regarding my career, I see things and definitely aspire to them. I definitely want to join the ranks of the VH1 talking heads. That's just one goal. I want to sell a big book to a big publisher with my agent, but it's not just the sale; I want my ideas to get out there. I want to put ideas that I don't see on the bookshelves there, I want to force myself to really do the time and think and wring the words out and create something real and solid and important that I can be proud of. I am proud of all the work I do but I do think there's a way I have of signing on for lots of small projects that are sortof "busy work" and make it look like I'm doing a lot but don't bring in much or any extra money and aren't really leading anywhere. I want to keep doing them all but also trying new things and seeing where they go. I don't want to just accept that I'm stuck in my ways. I wrote on the old blog a long time ago, at a very different point, how sad it is when people say "this is the way I am, I'll never change," and I don't want to be that person.
It's hard too because there's no guaranteed reward. With the little assignments, at least I know they have a home. I could put endless hours into these book proposals and have them go nowhere fast. But at the same time, I have to try. The book I'm working on, the big, meaty, nonfiction one, is based on ideas I've had since at least 1996, probably longer. I've been wanting to write about sex and empowerment and feminism and autonomy and a lot of these topics since I read Wendy Shalit's A Return to Modesty
so many years ago, when I was still in law school. I've wanted to find a way to respond to that book, and now I do have platforms to write about the topics that interest me, which is great, but 1100 words every 2 weeks is not what I'm talking about. It's just strange because some days, I truly believe I can do anything, and others, I just don't see it. At all. It seems like an absolute waste of time, a pipe dream, a fairy tale. Those times I tell myself to stick to what I know, do 100 erotica books instead of waiting for that fabled book deal, that strike-it-rich moment. But then I realize it's not just about the money, though goodness knows I will feel such a huge burden off my shoulders once my loans are paid off. It's that I hate stagnation. As much as I hate unexpected change per se, I also hate the idea that my life, especially my career, is sitting still. I like momentum, I like to push myself in new directions.
That can be a good thing or a bad thing though. Because of that, once I get to a certain point, I'm almost bored with myself, or it's kindof this self-deprecating thing where I think "oh, they want ME to do that, well, that must mean it's not all that important." I don't truly believe that, but a little piece of me does, like I'm just never worthy, that I don't deserve it, despite the near-constant little bits of good news. Aside from thinking it's all a fluke or that I've stumbled my way into this career, along with my own tendency to self-sabotage, I've just always thrived as the underdog, that's always felt like the most comfortable position to me. So it would make sense that I'd walk away from NYU with no skills, no plan, no sense at all about what it takes to live in New York, and thereby affect my entire future. I don't regret that; at the time, I saw no other way out, but again, I let things spiral out of control, wasted three years and several hundred thousand dollars, for what? So I could live in the Village? Looking back I can see I was never going to be a lawyer, I sucked at it, but I think even though I knew that, I never truly thought I could be a writer either. That seemed like such a pipe dream, and those lack of skills and street smarts and common sense probably kept me at NYU longer than I needed to be.
And that's okay, I've pretty much made my peace with it, though I definitely feel a bit inferior to people with graduate degrees. I wish that had all gone down differently, though I do feel it's made me realize what I can handle. I can do paycheck to paycheck, I can do mindless boring day jobs where I have nothing in common with my coworkers, I can pretend that I'm one way at the office and then go off and live my real life. I'm grateful beyond words I don't have to do that anymore, but still, I could again if I had to. But most of all, I just cringe and want to literally harm myself in some way when I see myself making those very same actions. Going out instead of working, nonstop, just being a selfish loser, and I want to work on that, want to really dedicate myself to something bigger, even if there's never a reward, even if the book never sells. Because I'll never know otherwise, I'll just have all these little things to show, and my loans will remain, and I just won't be growing in any way and will just sit around and read other people's books and think "no, they're wrong" without having any substance behind that thought.