AddThis script

Friday, October 26, 2007

Jumping over my writer's block

If showing up is 98 percent of success, then just starting to write has to be a solid way to get over writer's block. Write anything. Write everything. Just as long as you're writing.

And that's what I've been doing, and I'm kicking my book proposal into shape and it's actually starting to look like the book proposal of someone who knows what they are doing. If I can just convince part of my brain that I actually can successfully write a book proposal--an ultimately a book--then that has got be the hardest part of getting through this rough patch. And even if the rest of my brain is skeptical, I just need part of me to believe in me. I'm certain that my own fear of failure has to be the most significant part of my writer's block. But I refuse to be defeated. I've armed myself with some how-to books and I'm writing and writing and writing. Some of it is garbage (and that is all part of the process), but at least I'm making progress in the right direction.

I think one of the things that helped me was that I did an image search on Google for "published author." My blog is in the process of being redesigned and I wanted to get some ideas for how to visually say writer/author without using an old typewriter, like I did when I ordered my official business cards a couple of years ago. And the search results showed a lot of people who look less capable than I do of writing a book. And so I thought, if all of these people have published books, then I most certainly am capable of publishing a book too.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

What a pig

There are no more cookies. I just double-checked and it's true. I ate all of them two days ago. I thought the best way to get rid of those last four jumbo cookies was to just eat them all at once. Then they would be gone. It worked. There were gone. And I felt sick. And then later that day when I went to get more cookies, I was angry that I had eaten them all at once and not saved any for later.

Since there are no cookies, I scoured around looking for something to eat that would serve as a decent substitute for chocolate cookies. What I found was a jumbo container of Ovaltine. That's chocolaty. And it's practically good for me. It's fortified, you know. Then I found a mostly-empty, 64-ounce Costco-sized tub of plain, whole fat yogurt. And I mixed a generous helping of Ovaltine into the yogurt. It was almost like soft chocolate ice cream. Almost.

What is wrong with me? I can not buy anymore cookies or ice cream or chocolate or candy (or Ovaltine, apparently) until this whole emotional-eating thing passes and I can walk through the kitchen with my hands at my side and my mouth closed. I look forward to the day when I can throw food in the garbage, when leftovers from my kids' plates do not equal an extra helping for me. I look forward to the day when I don't squeeze my muffin-top after every meal.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Being alone with my thoughts is not a safe place

I started out as the girl who blushed. At my first real job, I didn't feel confident in myself or my skills or my ability to do my job. I was insecure, I guess. Green. And I'd blush whenever people looked at me. Or whenever I had to talk to people--which is rather frequently when you're a reporter. I felt that they could see through my inexperience and know that I wasn't really sure what I was doing. That I was just playing a part.

And then I wasn't.

Somewhere along the way, I got good at what I did. I had experience and lots of clips to be proud of. And no one intimidated me. Not CEOs. Not CFOs. Or PR flaks. Or financial analysts. Or fund managers. I was a good reporter. And I stopped blushing. I was good at my job. Even if I didn't particularly like it all that much. So I quit to do something else. Then I got pregnant. And here I am five years later. And I don't have any confidence. And I don't have any recent clips. And I feel like that green college graduate, who wondered if anyone would ever want to hire me when I was surrounded by thousands of other smart and driven recent grads. I feel like that shy girl, who wondered why any guy would ever want to go out with me when I was surrounded by so many other smart and pretty girls.

It's like I don't remember how to write, even though I've been writing my whole life. I get so paralyzed with fear of failure. I guess that is why people who want to quit smoking tell people they are going to quit. It is like once you tell people, then if you fail, you haven't just let yourself down. You let this whole group of people you respect down. And that is where I am with this book. I have told scores of people about my book. This amazing book that I'm writing for parents who have young kids in the hospital--a topic in which I sadly have too much personal experience. I want to believe that I'm that confident and capable writer. I want to believe that I can do it. I want other people to think I'm confident and capable. I want other people to believe in me, so that some of their confidence rubs off and me and helps me succeed.

Part of the problem is that I'm emotionally connected to the book's topic. I have to go places that I've been trying to forget for four-and-a-half years. Dark places. Sad places. Angry places. Weak places. Defeated places. And so I'm stuck. I need to deal with my own messed-up life first. I need to confront all of those demons. I'm reminded of them every time I see an ambulance. I'm reminded of them every time I go to the pharmacy. I'm reminded of them with every doctor appointment. With every test result. With every dose of medicine.

So now that I've carved all this time into my schedule so that I can work, it is just me and my thoughts. I've realized that having no time to write was a gift. The gift of avoidance. Having no time to write was the perfect way for me to not deal with my own stuff. I guess it is true what they say: be careful what you wish for. I wished for some childcare so that I could work. What I ended up with was a bit of insomnia, a dash of depression, an inability to stop snacking, and the realization that I'm not as nearly together as I thought I was.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Feeling antsy

There has been an uncomfortable feeling following me around like a late-afternoon shadow.

Well, all I needed to do was check out my Google Docs to be reminded of the spreadsheet I set up a few months back to keep track of my freelance submissions. Since I hadn't been exercising my keyboard skills because I was out of town, I haven't had a reason to go there. Well, now that I'm back and I have gotten through my backlogged to-do list (grocery shop, doctor appointment, pick up medicine from the pharmacy, follow up on past-due bills, drop off Preschooler in Chief's late school photo order, etc., etc.), I finally decided it's time to attempt to get back into my writing routine. And there it was, that reminder that eight weeks has come and nearly gone since I submitted my essay to Newsweek. And there hasn't been a word from them. And in this business, silence is not golden. On the bright side, there are six more days before I'm officially rejected. Sigh.

Maybe because it takes so long to be rejected from these publications it makes it feel like the rejection is bigger than it really is. There have only been two rejections at this point, which really isn't all that bad. And there are still several other publications that I can try to place my piece with. But you submit your work and wait and wait and wait.

Perhaps if I was a big-named writer with lots of recent clips at national publications, getting my stuff published wouldn't be so emotional (or difficult). But then again, I'm sure big-named writers probably don't write stuff on spec without knowing that it will be published wherever they want it to be published. So I guess I just need a break. I need to get a couple of pieces featured in prominent publications. Then things would get easier. Or maybe I wouldn't sweat it so much if an occasional piece was rejected.

I wonder if it's better to keep shooting for the big publications or to start small and take my small successes to the bigger publications. It has to be who you know. And at this point, I don't know the right people.

Father in Chief says I should shelf the essay for a bit and work on something totally different. And I could do that because I always have ideas bouncing around my brain. But I don't want to start from scratch. And if I'm going to be working, then I'd rather work on my other who-knows-if-it-will-ever-get-published project: my book. Ugh.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Dreaming of an uncomplicated life

I have a crazy delusion that life is so complicated because I don't live in Western New York anymore (that is where I grew up, and I recently spent two weeks there). I think to myself... If I lived there, there wouldn't be so much stress, so much stuff to weigh us down. But that notion is entirely untrue. It just seems that way because there are no real stresses there when I go to visit (outside of the fact that very little is child-proofed).

It is a total misrepresentation of reality. None of my responsibilities are there when I visit because I don't live there. If I did live there, all of those stresses and responsibilities would most certainly be there when all the boxes were unpacked. And then instead of living in the beautiful and exciting San Francisco Bay Area, I would live in dreary and depressed Western New York. But our families would be there and that would be wonderful. But then once we settle in, all of the stuff that gets me down and makes me feel overwhelmed would appear as our lives started to settle in there. There would still be groceries to buy and laundry to wash and cluttered cupboards and bills to pay and deadlines to meet.

But it's always so deliciously deceptive when I visit because none of that stuff is there. My only real responsibilities are to care for the daily needs of my kids. And even then, there are grandparents around willing to take the wee ones for a bit so that I can go out with friends or take a mid-afternoon snooze.

I'm sure that is partially why I get so home-sick. I'm sure I don't really yearn for Lockport, New York. Yes, I long for the day-to-day stuff we miss out on with our families and the stuff they miss out on with us and their grandchildren. And I long for the simple times that I remember. Because when I lived there 17 years ago, there was little real responsibility in my life. Everything was in front of me. My life was just starting to unfold. And that is a beautiful and wonderful time to think about. Now if only I could figure out a way to bring that feeling home.