Friday, September 19, 2008
Listen and watch, if you will, to three of my favorite things. It is all I need to remember who I am in this lonely writing life, for I'm not sure I could have enjoyed this video as deeply before I recently reclaimed my center.
My Center. Lately I've run off course. Lately as in the last three years. It began with the eye explosion and slowly from there life as I knew it, splintered in every direction, taking my writing life along with it, for before then, I was doing pretty damn good. Before that I'd completed three manuscripts in three years. Blissfully happy with myself for accomplishing such a feat, it was thereafter that my focus got a little warped. Not the focus that comes with having two fully working eyes; that was a feat in itself to overcome. It was when the completed manuscripts started looking like two out of three had a shot, in my very ill thought out wisdom, to see the light of publication.
So there I was, pre-eye explosion, prepping myself for greatness, making sure that I learned the art of the query letter, synopsis, networking, hanging with those-in-the know. Each day I'd work toward the big goal: a contract with an agent or publisher. And right on the cusp of eye explosion, I made headway into a new manuscript, for that's how I did things, writing my ass off each day, keeping my eyes on the prize.
And then "it" happened. Torn retina with a detachment chaser. My time at the computer became more and more limited. I got more and more frustrated seeing my prized goal sinking further from sight, like a oar-less boat on a strong current - I wasn't on board. Four in depth eye surgeries later, my energy dwindled. I wondered if I'd ever see that publishing dream come to fruition.
I grew increasingly frustrated because I no longer spent each day writing. I thought that's what writers did. They sat and pounded out word after word, letting them snowball into sentences and ultimately the "great American novel." For isn't that what everyone in the writing business did? Isn't that what every blog I visited talked about? All involved in the road to publishing made sure to share how they did it. "They" sat before a blank page each day, and to paraphrase an infamous romance author, "to start is to just begin with one word."
As if it all flowed endlessly from just one word. It used to for me. And then it stopped. And then I had to stop. The doc said, "Step away from the computer screen, give your eye a break for about a week, if not more."
How could I possibly do that? No way, I said to myself. No fuckin' way. So I grabbed a pen and notebook and did it like Twain. I pushed that pen and the story came - there was no way I was not going to write. Writing is my life! I said to myself.
Writing is not my life. It does not define who I am. Yet, I was determined to make it so, and with that my wrists never saw so many close calls to a straight edge. (Metaphorically speaking, of course.) Up and down, day in and day out. I didn't want to get out of bed in the morning because I wasn't in the mood to write, and without that I didn't want to...
Have you ever heard the sound of a hockey skate screeching toward the blue line? Maximize that sound by five thousand and that's what I heard exploding between my ears. I dared to put all my happiness eggs into one basket. What if the basket dropped? What if best case scenario, I got a publishing contract and then, worse case scenario, my book got so-so reception? Or, I got a three book deal and suddenly the publisher decides, "Your books aren't selling because no one is into YOU anymore?"
The straight edge swings like a runaway pendulum over my wrists. All the eggs in the happiness basket are now a very undercooked omelet. I forgot to stop and smell the roses because I had to make sure to write, write, write in order to feel writerly.
Not so much now, folks. Kath has risen to a brand new day and smelled the Costa Rica blend, for if happiness is based on one thing, then utter disappointment can't be too far off. Writing stopped being fun. My life stopped being fun. Writing defined me all right - I started to look like a Bates Motel resident, only more fashionably dressed.
It's been over a week since I last wrote a word in my manuscript. Somewhere five agents have looked, or are looking, at a sample of my writing skills. I could sit here and chisel away a fabulous manicure worrying, but do you know what? I'm not. One out of five agents might like my work and want to see more. Do I have more for said agent to see? Not completely.
Do I care that I might just blow a shot at getting an agent? No, I don't. I'm through with making "getting published" the center of my universe. Only I can be the center of my universe, for if I'm not, I'm missing various other happy moments, as well as developing several holes through my stomach.
I have felt a certain calm this week, like those I'd get as a child sitting by the small creek that flowed along side the house. It'd gurgle over the stones as the sun sparkled like gold coins riding on a tiny surf. Nothing could ever be wrong; all was innocent; I was happy without cause. That was my peace.
The publishing road is still one I'll travel, but these days it's just another satellite orbiting around the sun. I'll not let writing define me - it's just what I do, same as breathing.