It’s no surprise that I’ve been having (what I lovingly refer to as) an existential writer crisis for about, oh, a year. Well, I think it’s hit its precipice. At least I hope it has. It’s 12:57 AM and I can’t sleep. All I can think is ‘It’s time to do my work’. A rather annoying thought to have when what I’d really like to be doing is sleeping. I know what my brain is telling me. It’s telling me to quit whining, grow up, and write what I should be writing. (I keep thinking of the end scene in Uncle Vanya.)
These last two years on my own with the kids have been pretty chaotic. I’m constantly busy with teaching and narrating and then writing and more recently endlessly promoting my three small books that are out there. You can do a lot of things at one time, I’ve discovered, but you can’t do a lot of things well. I’ve given my all to my kids, my students, my audiobooks, and what little is left over, I give to my own work. There isn't a lot left over, actually. There's hardly anything left over.
Here’s where things get touchy.
I have a huge chip on my shoulder about why my work isn’t catching on, and why I can’t get an agent, and why I can’t get that elusive big New York publisher. Originally, I just thought the world was against me. Now I realize it’s actually more personal than that. My work isn’t good enough. I’m not saying this for pity; I’m saying it because it’s true.
I’ve thrown a tantrum over a colleague of mine and the accolades that he’s rightly receiving. I’ve thrown a tantrum because my alma mater GVSU said they wouldn’t let me do a reading there because the type of stuff I write (romantic comedy) isn’t supported by their department. I’ve thrown a tantrum as I’ve watched other writer friends get agents, book deals, readings at Schuler’s, etc. I threw a tantrum this week when the two agents looking at my new manuscript passed on it, even though they said I’m a good writer with a keen imagination. And I nearly threw a tantrum last night when I googled my college boyfriend, and discovered that he was on The Daily Show in January talking about his critically heralded second book on Detroit and the auto industry. The man is called a genius, and the truth is, he is.
What do any of these tantrums really accomplish? Why am I being such a baby?
Here’s the truth. I have a smidgen of talent and I’ve always floated by on that. I’ve never really tried at anything. Good grades came easy in school. I was a mostly A student. The same in college. Papers came easy, and later so did stories. Now if I’m being really honest, I’ll take it a step further.
Writing is a joy to me. An escape. So I don’t like to work on it. Work is, well, work. My three books out…they’re pretty much 1st drafts. Sure, I fix the typos and I add things here and there, but you’re pretty much reading the 1st draft. Why? Because I’m sort of just floating by.
So while I throw tantrums all over the place about the ‘world not recognizing me’…what kind of effort and work have I put into making them listen? Are my books the best work I’m capable of? No. They’re not. They’re just parlor tricks.
What would happen if I really took some time and energy and put it into a novel? What would happen if I stopped complaining, stopped looking at everyone around me and what they have, and just focused on my work? On those novels that I want to write? On the novels I need to write, but haven't had the energy for? What would happen?
I’m hoping for magic.
This is what I’m going to do. I’m finally at a place in my life where I feel loved and supported and safe. It has taken all my life to get to this point. (My childhood is the stuff of pained memoirs.) I have great kids and a wonderful fiancé and a wedding to plan. I don’t have to fight anymore to be who I am, or struggle emotionally or financially. Things are in place.
So now it’s time to shut up and do my work. I’m returning to a literary novel that I started a decade ago and didn’t want to put the time and energy into it because it was too hard. And I’m also going to rewrite “Tunnel Vision” and see if I can add depth and texture to it. If no one bites on “Foodies Rush In”, I’ll self-publish it and I’ll move on.
I’m tired of my own tantrums. It’s time to get serious about this.
It starts now…
Or, okay, it starts after I get some sleep.
Don't worry. I won't lose my sense of humor in my work, but I'm going to widen the scope a little. There are characters still waiting in Rusty's Bar and Grill, and a fortune teller has moved in above the restaurant. This is what I'm going to work on. Everything else around me is just noise.