Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Important conversations and a radioactive computer

Yesterday cute husband and I were out for an evening walk to our favorite store--Trader Joe's--when I asked him what he thought of my story.

Let me be frank with you.  While I'm thrilled to be writing again and thrilled to finally have a real project going--something I'm waking up each day knowing I need to work on--it's also been an extremely tense and sometimes depressing few weeks.  It's so easy for me to lose my confidence and even easier for me to avoid my computer all day, some days literally not writing a word, walking past my desk all day long with my head turned away like the computer is radioactive or might eat me.  I know I've told you this before and I hope it doesn't sound too much like complaining, but things are just extremely uncertain right now--not just for me, but for Corey too--and I can't help but put a ton of pressure on myself to make my story great, get into a writing program, write a bestselling novel and ride off into the sunset.

That said, I always try and stop myself from saying the sentence, "Things will be perfect when..." to myself because that's never the way it works out.  I remember hearing once that our bad habit of playing "what if" with ourselves (what if I'd taken that job in New York City, what if I'd gotten a degree in photography instead of accounting, and on and ON) is not only an exercise in futility because we can't go back again, but also because even if we could there'd still be so many things that could go wrong in that alternate reality.  E.g. you move to New York City for the job but move into a crappy apartment there (because it's all you can afford) and the building collapses, trapping you for days and causing a concussion that erases your short term memory.  Or you get that photography degree but doing so takes you out of Accounting 202, where you met your husband or your-best-friend-to-this-day, et cetera.  But to get off my meandering path and come back to the point: while things are little bit less than ideal right now, I know that it's all part of the journey (no, let's call it a trip) we're on.

So all of that explained, let me get back to our walk yesterday.  When I asked Corey what he thought of my story, he said he loved it.  He gave me compliments and said how much he'd missed reading my writing.  Then, he paused.  "But can I give you a few points to focus on," he said.  And then he dropped the bomb: "Get out of your comfort zone.  I love how you write but when you describe your characters it sounds like you talking, and it needs to sound like them talking."   I said, "Okay," thinking the pain was over.  He continued: "And I know this goes against everything you believe, but you need to make an outline or something of what's going to happen.  You need to plot everything out and then make it happen."  He paused again.  "And don't put your entire life into this story--like if it doesn't come together you can't apply to a program.  You can start again on something new or start on something new in the middle of writing this one."

My head was reeling as we wandered through Trader Joe's--usually I scan the shelves obsessively looking for new items I might want to try, but yesterday I just grabbed 2 green peppers, a tub of hummus, and a bag of oranges.  Internal monologue went something like this: I'm no good.  Even my biggest fan, second only to my mom, thinks I'm no good.  He's trying to find a polite way to tell his wife, you might not have what it takes, move on to something else.  My characters aren't even characters then, if they just sound like me.  "What are we having for dinner, though?" Cute husband asked.  "Don't know," I said, making a dash for the cash register. "I guess we're just going to forage tonight," I said.  Forage is our polite way of saying "leftovers."

Needless to say it was a quiet walk home, but by the time the oranges were in the fruit bowl I realized that it was the best conversation I'd had in a long time about my writing.  That sometimes you need someone to tell you--Be bolder!  Take all the little stuff you're really good at and blow it up!  And when I opened up my story last night I was reading it over in a whole new way and suddenly thinking about all of the directions I could take it in because it was as though someone had finally given me the permission to do so.

But it doesn't end there...

Today at around noon, Mom called.  I hadn't mentioned any of this to her, but somehow--it actually has been determined that she has ESP--she seemed to know that I was struggling and for about twenty minutes, under the guise of just talking to me about some good books she'd read recently, said, about fifteen times, "You can do it.  I really believe you'll do this."

And lo and behold after the application of several scientific testing instruments, my computer shows no trace of radioactivity.

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