Thursday, November 18, 2010

You’ve Lost that Reckless Feeling

Last weekend, after the Fall Fair where I successfully sold my wares, my mom and aunt came back over to our place for a late lunch and some conversation. We shared a lot of laughs and a few tears but overall it was really a fantastic day and all of us got a lot of stuff off our chests that had been building up for a long time.

As for me, well, with the current state of affairs my mind pretty much became entwined with not much more than the concept of writing and then I made a statement that even surprised me.

“Some time in my past, and I have no idea when, I feel like my train jumped the track. I have no idea what I was supposed to end up doing but I can’t help but feel it was so much more than this.”

And that one tiny statement of admission to myself and the people around me set me off on a very slippery downward spiral for the rest of the weekend. I started to question everything in my life. From where I live to what I do to who I spend my time with to marrying Matt and you know what? Everything is alright now because sometime late Sunday I had another thought.

“It’s never too late, and I’m never too old, to do something about it.”

Now that’s all well and good but the teeny single spaced lines between ‘I’m supposed to do more than this’ and ‘never too late’ were cavernous last week. And it’s funny to me now but as you read this you’ll probably think how amazing it is that I got from points A to B in just forty eight short hours. But believe me, in my head I’ve been trying to get to B since A skipped the rails.

And I think that was back before I was even a teenager but it doesn’t really matter now, all that matters is making the most with what I’ve got.

Because last week was the second of NaNoWriMo, it was the well known week of let downs -- your characters suck, your writing sucks, you should just give up, etc. -- and this year more so than last year it effected the hell out of me.

Let me back up for a second because it isn’t fair to unleash this entire story without a little understanding of my own back story.

Since we moved back to Massachusetts Matt has been the primary income earner in our household. For the two years before we moved back I had taken myself, as Sex and the City Samantha would put it, ‘off the merry go round’ of corporate America to pursue my job with the ladies of faux out on Long Island. It was a great fit for me creatively speaking and I developed skills that I still utilize to this day. Because I felt so good about the new creative based job I had learned, I started a company doing it as soon as we got here. Most of you know it by now, Chucka Stone Designs.

The faux thing didn’t exactly take off like a rocket, but I had a moderately good year for a first year business. Which was good because Matt took a seventy percent pay cut to come back here and pursue something that was never to pan out. But that is a story for another time. Sometime when I have enough perspective to tell it without anger or sadness. Sometime when I can let it go. Sorry, still not there yet.

So I digress…

I did a whole bunch of jobs doing finishing and straight up painting for a couple years and then last year, around the end of the summer, my mom mentioned NaNoWriMo to me. I’d heard of it before but only on the fringes and I had no idea what it was even all about. After a good bit of research I signed up and set my goals on writing a novel in thirty days.

And you know what? Not a single person in my life said I was crazy (not to my face anyway). No one told me I couldn’t do it. Everyone pretty much universally said that I should have been doing it all along because it’s what I’m really good at. These were not new revelations, I had those thoughts myself since age fourteen, its just that I never gave them any weight because I had never figured out how to pursue it. I had no idea how to just become an Author of fiction novels. So instead I did anything but write.

There must be twenty “books” in my library of journals. At least, there could be more, twenty is just a round number guess. Now, I use quotes around the word ‘books’ because most of them are so violently edited at only halfway through (or less) that they have never become more than bleeding ink collectors.

I never felt like I could be an Author because I’d never finished a book. And to be fair, that’s kind of a necessary first step. So I dove into NaNo last year bound and determined to write something that I actually finished. A manuscript length fiction novel that was to become my first ever book.

And you know what? I did it. With their tools and encouragement along the way, the ability to lurk in forums and garner inspiration, and opening my eyes to another world where everything outside my door was simply inspiration ready for the taking, I wrote and completed a book.

I spent the next handful of months editing that book. Then I spent another scattering of months sending out query letters to Agents that I researched in order to sell that book.

And you know what? No one ever talks about this part. With good reason.

The editing of one’s own book (despite the help from three of my biggest cheerleaders ♥love♥) and the follow up of becoming my own sales and marketing representative is a brutal, vicious siege of…no, not rejection. The trouble with this part is the monotony. The waiting. The letters without a reply, the many (many, many, many) months spent going over and over the same old thing. The time between the first book and the second, for me, was a total buzz kill.

I started questioning what the fuck I was even doing with my life. Here I sit, every day, typing away furiously on these keys to create another world and all I want to do is climb into it and never leave. Reality sucks. The real world where bills are due and one’s husband is the only one contributing toward paying them is just, wrong to me.

So I started freaking out. Yes, I certainly had a ‘what does it all mean, fuck this I’m getting a job, I don’t care what I do as long as it pays a lot of money, my brain is going to explode the next time we’re left with seventy five dollars in our bank account’ kind of moment last weekend immediately following the fair.

Again, I should back up. Many of you know that we also filed bankruptcy last year. A big move that I’m not at all ashamed to say was necessary to move on with our lives. But it was another example of the waiting game.

I don’t mean financially, it wasn’t like we were trying to pay all of that stuff related to the house and just unable to do it so that left us with a windfall after the discharge. Quite the opposite. We were exactly the same, just free of the burdens of what happened after one very shady mortgage company allowed us to screw ourselves over many years ago. But we still made the same money and had the same bills the day after the discharge as the day before it if you catch my drift.

So I had put more stock in the feeling of freedom that I assumed would come with doing it. I put too much weight in waiting. Then I just kept waiting, floating endlessly in the sea of murky waters inside my own brain.

Then last weekend it all just caught up to me. There was no magic button. We aren’t transformed into something awesome just because we’re debt free. And oh yeah, I’m not making one freaking dime for all of this effort I’ve put into what I want to do with my life. No matter how many times Matt tells me to ‘stick it out’, ‘just keep working and it will happen’, ‘put myself out there every day’ (because the money he makes now does pay our bills) it occurred to me that if that happens and it takes me say ten years to get a book published, I will never get out of this transition place in my head.

Suddenly money became incredibly important. I started having a full on manic attack that I wasn’t pulling my weight in our family. I started freaking out that what I’m doing is a total and complete waste of time if we end up living in this apartment with no sunlight and no savings for the next whoever knows how long. That no matter how good my words string together, if I can’t sell it then its all for naught.

And then you know what? Matt said something that hit home so heavy I actually caught my breath in my throat -- ‘if you give up now that makes the last two years of my life bullshit.’ It wasn’t a move to make me feel guilty but it all suddenly hit me that he wants me to succeed. That he wants to see me give it everything I’ve got no matter what the consequence to our current financial situation. He has been the silent backdrop for so long. All this time that I’ve been wrapped up in my own head about feeling like I’m in this dire situation he’s been working his fucking ass off to let me have the chance to make something great happen in my life.

And I was just flailing about, squandering that gift. Like an asshole.

It’s hard to explain but it feels like I’ve been doing this job forever, because in my head I actually have. On the one hand, for the past twenty two years I’ve been this big famous Author, or screen writer, or general story teller and I don’t understand why it’s taking so long to make a living at it. On the other hand I hardly finished my first manuscript five minutes ago so how in the hell can I expect that just because I got to the finish line of the first goal I was going to instantly win the race?

I took all of last weekend off to contemplate, and I allowed myself to completely abandon all of my responsibilities for a day on Sunday when I got hammered in the middle of the afternoon and smoked a bunch of pot and didn’t write a word and didn’t work out and didn’t care about the outcome of the day. I simply embraced it for what it was at the time, like it was my last hurrah, and went with it.

And you know what? I woke up on Monday morning (a little off kilter physically I will admit) with an entirely new outlook on everything. I realized that it really doesn’t matter how long it takes as long as I keep at it. Not because Matt wants me to either. Because I want to and with his full support in doing so.

I still didn’t find the magic button where I press it and it lights up the inside of this box where every single answer to my life is written, but I definitely feel like a switch got flicked.

Its one thing to say out loud ‘I’m an Author’ and mean it but it’s quite another to go out there and live it by throwing myself recklessly into the great big unknown pool of destiny. Starting this past Monday, I feel like I’m living it. Finally.


pastrywitch said...

No two ways about Jenn; you are a writer. Deal with it ;)
When you find the magic button to the answer box, let me know. Maybe we'll get one for Solstichrismakwanzuchuhtivus.

Judi FitzPatrick said...

The magic button is right there inside you; you have all the answers already.
And Matt is already living the "want it more for someone else" theory, go Matt!
And definitely, go Jenn!!!
Love, Mum

#1Nana said...

Recently I moved procrastination to a whole new level when I started reading about writers writing rather than writing myself. I read a great little book called A Broom of One's Own: Words on Writing,Housecleaning, and Life by Nancy Peacock. Her first novel was award winning and quite successful, but not life changing. She still had to clean houses to pay the bills. It's quite an inspiring story about why writers write. You might enjoy her perspective.

Anonymous said...

You are and always will be a writer. "Switch got flicked", is ALLWAYS a good thing. We all need it to happen at times. Clarity, to help us emotionally, and keep going.
Have a great Thanksgiving Jenn, for you and your family. :)

Linda Myers said...

Wow. Thanks for this long post. This writing thing is frustrating and lonely and and and. You expressed it beautifully.

I just quit my job and we're now living on my husband's pensions only. It feels very, very weird, like I'm not really worthwhile since I'm freeloading.

Except I'm not.

I'm now your latest follower.

Jenn Flynn-Shon said...

I know Kate, you're right. Some days I just show my bipolar tendancies more than others ;-) Remind me again what date Solstichrismakwanzuchuhtivus falls on? (yes, I had to copy paste lol)

Thanks mum, some days its tougher to remember its there. Matt is the martyr don't you remember? heehee

Nana that's hysterical and something I definitely do! There are days I end up not sitting to write until 2:00 because of shiny things I find to distract me online :-) I'll certainly check out that book, thanks!

Thanks Joan, I wish the same happy Thanksgiving right back at ya! Are you staying home or heading to Boston this year? Emotional clarity...excellently put!

Linda thank you for reading this very long post. I know exactly how you feel in the 'am I worthwhile' category, a lot of this post is directly related to those feelings. It is difficult to get over at times but I just keep showing up everyday and making each one as interesting & different as I can muster! Thanks for swinging by, I'm following you now too & look forward to hearing more about your Alaskan adventures :-)

ginger said...

i read this the other day in my email and knew exactly what i wanted to say, but i've forgotten between then and now. (sigh)
i will tell you that i know you've been struggling with the whole, am i writer thing or not, conundrum for a long, long time.
i don't get to read a lot of your stuff, but what i do read is good. very good. i hear so many authors tell about how they try and try and try and it can take a long time for a publisher to come along for a fresh pen name, but not to give up. sometimes it happens on the 2nd or 3rd book, but it does happen.
have you thought of publishing short stories in magazines?

and yay, for matt and the super-supportiveness that he provides and yay for you for having the wisdom and sticktoitiveness to hear what he was telling you!

Rosebud Collection said...

I don't think anything we want to succeed in is easy..that is what makes the success so sweet..
Wishing you a very Happy Thanksgiving..Our kids our starting to come this way tonight..will be a busy house with about 20 here, sleeping in every room..but so much fun for all..
Have a wonderful day, sending you love...xoxoCarolyn.
Just a note, the wind is blowing a gale here today..some things never change..but so thankful "no snow"..