Bare List on Addiction

A few days ago, I was scrolling mindlessly through Facebook because procrastination is real and I stumbled upon an update from the Sheriff’s office of the small town in which I was partially raised. Every contact I had from said town had shared the message. It was a warrant notification of a man wanted in association with an attempted armed burglary, and with horror, I realized it was a man that I knew. Well, that’s not accurate. It was a man I had known as a boy. A boy a few years younger than myself. He was one of the underclassmen that hung on the outside fringes of my friend group. A cute, young football player we all lovingly referred to as a little brother. Except he wasn’t. Not anymore at least. The man staring back at me from the WANTED poster looked more like Charles Manson’s insane younger brother than the sweet boy from high school. He bared his teeth in a sinister grin showcasing all of his clearly meth-addled mouth. His hair was unwashed and unkempt. Even his eyes were hollow and vacant, no longer glistening with youth and possibility.

Baffled, I opened the comments to see if this really was the young boy that I had once known. It was, of course, which was heartbreaking in its own right, but more gut-wrenching were the comments. “Hang him!” proclaimed one, “hang him high!” agreed another. “Guess he’s not such a stud anymore,” someone chided. A comment here or there made mention of how sad it was that drugs had stolen his future or of how sweet and kind he had once been and how awful it was that this drug epidemic had claimed another victim, but for the most part, Facebookers gathered to revel in the undoing of one of our own’s humanity.

The scene crushed my soul, not because I had known the boy. We were only passing friends. Truthfully, I haven’t talked to him in over a decade. We weren’t even connected on Facebook. It’s safe to say that had I not seen his mugshot, I would not have thought of him that day or any other. I felt for him, of course, but what upset me even more I guess was that, I wasn’t shocked. While it was jarring to see a name I knew in association with a manhunt, it was not surprising that he turned to a life of drugs. It seems like everyone that I went to school with in that small town either got out or became addicts, and sadly, I’m not exaggerating. Children with straight As and bright futures that stayed within the borders of our small community have almost all been swept up in the free-for-all of opioid and meth use. It’s literally killing the community. I can’t even count on one hand the number of former classmates of mine that have died of drug related causes. Even more than that have had serious injuries and more still have been in trouble with the law.

It’s easy in our society to blame them. To ignore the crushing poverty that kept them out of college despite good grades, to ignore the subpar educational system they’re raised in because it’s hard to find good teachers to live in the poorest county in the state. Hell, it’s easy in my home town to blame them because it’s easier to say “well, they’re just bad people” than to admit the reality that addiction is a disease that know no bounds.

It’s not easy for me, though. I wish that it was. I wish that I could go back to a time where the issue was black and white. I can’t though. I’ve come too far. At this point in my life, I’ve known and loved at least ten addicts that I know of, recognizing that given the percentages, I probably know/love someone that has struggled or is struggling in the shadows. Of all of those people, two are in recovery and have been for a substantial length of time. Two are in the roller coaster of early recovery, three are in jail and the rest are dead. Unfortunately, included in that last group is my father who passed away almost two years ago of what the death certificate listed as “chronic alcohol abuse”.

My father’s addiction changed everything I knew about addiction. My biological mother was also an addict, but she went to rehab and came out the other side clean and sober and has been for well over a decade. I didn’t even know my father was an alcoholic until my stepmother died. He was a highly successful attorney well-loved by countless friends and family, and highly valuable to the community (the big city where I spent most of my life, not the small town). When my stepmother died, though, he did, too. He drowned in drink despite the fact that all he wanted to do was survive. To enjoy his life. To have a damn life. Still, despite every fiber of his being wanting a different ending, despite rehab and therapy and prayers and homeopathic healing and at one point maybe something with an iguana, he succumbed to wet brain and loneliness. Really, it’s too much to even go into now, but suffice it to say that the world’s best father and grandfather became the indomitable alcoholic. I was constantly having to take care of him, rushing to the ER for drunken antics, driving grape juice to him before work but after I dropped my son off at school because he thought he was dying. It was an insane period of time in my life, balancing his addiction with being a single, working mother. It was heartbreaking and infuriating and I have never been so damn mad/sad/defeated in my entire life.

Before my father, if asked about addiction, I would have sad that it was sad, because it is. I was educated and empathetic enough to realize that it was a tragedy and no one ever wanted their life to end in addiction. I knew it was awful, and I was heartbroken every time it claimed another victim, but not like I am now. Not after living through the struggle. I didn’t know the gutwrenching chaos and pain the monster put on. I didn’t know that you could do all of the things, that you could want it SO DAMN BAD and still fail.

That adds a new dimension for me, and while I’m mortified that it took watching my father battle to honestly understand the hell that addicts go through on a daily basis, I get it now. Not just at a “oh it’s shame” level, but at a “this is a goddamn travesty” level. Because NO ONE wanted to end up being an addict.

I’m not saying that my high school friend, or any addict, doesn’t do bad things, and that those things should be overlooked purely because of mental disorder. My father did horrible things in the last few years of his life and we fought constantly, and I was not always the super forgiving, oh-I-understand child. I yelled and screamed and kicked and cussed. When loving his addiction away failed, I tried berating it away, I tried fighting it away, I tried ignoring it away. I tried a lot of things that failed because nothing would work, but still I feel like there’s got to be a better away. I don’t know what it is, but I know it’s not hanging. I know it’s not laughing and making jokes and peering down from our high horses in judgement, or even pity.

Anyway, I’m not sure why I wrote this, but a voice has been gnawing at my brain to put this into the world and so it has. Maybe it will help you? I hope it does. Maybe I just wanted to give a voice to the darkness, because for a long time I let my dad live in the darkness. I didn’t talk about his addiction a lot when he was alive because he was embarrassed of it, and no matter how angry I was at him, I never wanted to embarrass him. But you know what? I was never embarrassed of him. I’m still not. Sure, he fought the battle and lost. Sure, I’m still angry that my youngest son will never get to meet his grandfather. Of course, I’m still ravaged by the empty chairs at our holiday gatherings. I am many, many things when it comes to my father’s addiction, but embarrassed is not now, and never has been one of them. His own shame wouldn’t let him believe that when he was alive, but maybe someone out there will. Shame is the food addiction lives on, so I’m not feeding it anymore.

If you’ve loved an addict, if your town is one of the thousands losing this battle, if you’re struggling, whatever and want to talk, I’m here. Comment/private message/whatever. Let’s talk.

 

Bare List on Nanover

Yesterday, I completed the annual challenge so many authors inexplicably take on despite its obvious opposition to better sense and reason. Yes, I’m talking about Nanowrimo. I wrote my way across the finish line yesterday, and despite the lack of trumpets and balloons, it was a thrilling moment for me. While it’s not my first victory, it was my most stressful battle, which is really saying something because past Nano’s I have been either a single working mother at a high level marketing job while also launching my own small business or the married mother of a two month old who just added a new baby to the mix. Now though, I am solely focused on writing and my small business, the is now a toddler in preschool, and the oldest is double digits. Also, I was super excited to use the event to get started on a narrative that had been nagging at me for a while.

“This will be cake!” I proclaimed on November 1st as I banged out the first 3,000 words without even breaking a sweat. Then God laughed and the trouble began. There were some expected obstacles, like the half-marathon I was running in another state. This was a relatively big deal because I am not a distance runner. I am very fit and active (strong body, strong mind, right?). I love 5ks, obstacle courses, and mud runs, but I can think of zero good reasons to run for 13.1 miles. Like, none. Even if something was chasing me, I’d just lay down and let it eat me around mile 6 cause I mean, damn. Unfortunately, one of my best friends created a good reason for me, or more aptly her sister did. You see, her sister, who was only a month older than myself, passed away entirely unexpectedly earlier this year. She left behind a husband, two children, and my devastated best friend. The sister had always wanted to be a runner but health issues kept her from it, so my best friend decided we would run a half and dedicate it to her memory. I would rather write 13.1 thousand words a day for the rest of my life than run 13.1 miles just once, but I did it. I braved the early morning on four hours of sleep, ran all the miles, and made the two hour drive home. Oh, and did I mention I did that while in pain and projectile puking because I have a hormone imbalance that is wreaking havoc on my person? Cause I did. I did that. What I did not do, was write.

So, there was day one with no words. Then a host of other things collided. There were holiday scheduling discussions, meal planning, co-parenting struggles with the oldest father, fall ball, etc. It was a mess, but we survived…until the plague. The stomach bug, that I can only assume is sweeping the nation because it is all over my Twitter, invaded our household via the toddler. This resulted in baby’s first trip to the emergency room and another lost day of writing for mom, which was especially hurtful because we were supposed to be traveling to see my family for Thanksgiving, so not only did I miss them, I missed those valuable writing hours in the car. (I feel like I should throw in here that in life, it hurt me entirely worse to have a sick baby and miss my family than miss the writing. I need for that to be clear, because I am a Nano nut, but I also have priorities).

Then, like it hadn’t done enough, it got my husband and took me down shortly thereafter. It was madness to try to keep the big one healthy while the three other members of his household and over half his class were succumbing to the vileness. Another lost day of writing, and honestly, Zofran was the sole reason it wasn’t even more than that.

Added to that was a litany of other obstacles of varying emotional and creative sizes. My husband worked from home on more than one of my work days, which doesn’t sound like it should interfere and he really does stay the heck out of my way, but just him being there breathing my air makes it difficult for me to get my rhythm. One of my best friend’s daughters has hit the teenage years and is making the WORST choices and we’re trying to band together to be a village in raising this child, but we have no idea what we’re doing because it’s been two decades since we were 14 and there’s obvious communication barriers, my son’s best friend’s mother has been going through a breast cancer scare and we won’t know if we can call it just a scare until tomorrow. The holidays are hard because I’ve lost a lot of super important members of my family in rapid succession and I’m still getting used to the new normal. It was just a lot.

I wanted so badly for life to just slow down, for clients to stop calling, for issues to stop popping up, to have a safe place to worry and grieve, and to not run 13.1 miles. But, those weren’t options. Which, I guess is why I share this with you because all of us are dealing with stuff we’d just rather not. Cancer is an asshole, empty seats at the holidays are heart-wrenching, raising children is scary, work-life balance is a fictional carrot at the end of stick, chasing your passion is a hard fought battle, and running sucks. These are universals. Okay, maybe there are some people out there that would disagree on that last point, but they’re wrong or on better drugs than me. For the most part though, we are all dealing with versions of these hardships. Your cancer may be chronic illness, your missing loved one may be a spouse you’re separated from, but we are all dealing with stuff and we all fight on and that’s kind of freaking awesome. Truly, it’s a victory that we all continue to get up everyday and not just survive, but thrive. It’s amazing that even after the days we fail, we come back for more. We keep getting up, even if we’ve got to lay down for a moment.

For NaNoWriMo, whether you won with 315,000 words (that is an actual number I saw, hand to gosh. That is not my number. My book is still a chapter or two away from being finished and even then won’t hit 90,000) or you didn’t hit the target and ended with 25,000 or less, you won. You won by putting words on the page. You won by breaking through all the shit we have to live through, work through, survive through everyday to put in the hard work to follow your dream. That’s impressive y’all, and I am so down proud of everyone that tried.

Bare List on Writing Through the Struggle

I’ve started this blog 17 different times because I cannot find the words to accurately express the heartbreak today has wreaked on my psyche. While it’s not the most devastating of days I’ve ever survived, it’s been a struggle. Not in the “oh hell it’s Monday” way but in the “oh hell, how am I possibly going to handle my life” way. Between scheduling meetings, working, and hauling the kids to school, I’ve had to make time to have a long and emotional conversation about blending families and holidays. Literally, I found myself in tears three times before 9 a.m.

By the time I sat down at my computer to write, I felt defeated. I was robbed of my inspiration and my anxiety made it hard to even sit still. I was at a pinnacle moment of my Nano novel, a piece that’s been nagging at my peripheral for months, begging for attention and demanding to be heard. I am so excited about this work and this scene is crucial. I looked at the words from last night on the screen and felt like there was no way I could do the story justice today. I wasn’t good enough. Everything I could say today would be worthless anyway and I have so much going on. Did I even have a right to be writing? Thanksgiving is upon us, it’s a short work week and clients want to check-in before they depart for the holidays. My family’s scheduling was a nightmare, I have checks to various charities waiting to be written. The kids have activities. The family calendar hanging to my right hasn’t been updated since SEPTEMBER. There’s laundry to do, decorations to put up, the list goes on. Why should I even be writing?  I’m failing at everything else, why not just fail at writing, too? I mean, I’m going to anyway. I don’t have what it takes to live up to this moment. Not now.

I thought about it. I thought about packing it up and letting today go. “You’ll have time later. You’ll feel better later,” I tried to lie to myself, but I knew neither was true. I’m not going to get any less busy, at least not anytime soon. So, I took a deep breath and I wrote. I struggled through the words, tears leaking from my eyes at the emotional torment of the early day as well as my story. I wrote until I had to stop for an emotional phone call and then I wrote again as soon as the business was handled. I wrote as the word count slowly ticked up-50, 100, 150. I wrote as I fought to piece together the scene the way I knew it deserved to be done. I wrote though I cried, I wrote though I doubted myself, and then…I wrote because I was in the scene.

Without realizing it, my writing switched from pain to purpose. The words came easily and as my stomach ached with hunger, I realized that I had written without pause, without thought of anything outside of myself or the story for almost two hours. Almost 2,500 words had escaped my fingers and I had only fought for maybe 500 of them. It’s not the most I’ve ever gotten through in a sitting. I’ve certainly seen more impressive counts from a host of fellow writers and Nanoers, but it was a count I didn’t believe I could reach when I sat down. It was an achievement my evil inner critic had berated me into thinking was unfathomable.

I share this with you, not because of the pride I feel, but because I know that we all have that doubt. Life throws a lot at us, more than we can ever hope to manage, and it’s so easy to start listening to our fears, depression, and anxiety. Writing can so often be the easiest thing to neglect when those negative thoughts invade our brains because we believe that there has to be this perfect mix of inspiration and desire to do our stories justice. I’m here to tell you, that is untrue. I wrote today, despite the fact I didn’t want to. Despite the fact I felt like I had nothing to offer, I gave myself over to my work because I know that the long term pride I will experience completing this outweighed the short term pit of yuck that I was experiencing. Bonus: I feel better. Maybe I am failing at everything else, but at least I won at writing, and that’s a start. It’s forward motion.

So, friends. Today, or any day, that you’re struggling, I hope you remember that you can write through it. Though it seems impossible, just get to the computer, grab a pen and paper, whatever. Just start writing. Just keep writing. I promise, it will get better.

P.S. I’m not actually failing at everything, my inner voice is just a real f*ckhead sometimes.

Have you been in the struggle? I will grab a drink a settle in to struggle with you.

Bare List of More Writing Prompts

The ides of November is upon us. For many NaNoers, it’s a day of raucous celebration: the halfway mark! The end is in sight and you’re excited to see the finish line coming into view, maybe you’ve already even passed it. For others, though, this day reeks of the betrayal faced by Caesar on that March day. Your inspiration has dried up, your brain has blanked, the cold fingers of writer’s block are choking out your voice. The situation may seem desperate, but I assure you, there is hope! Writing prompts are here to get your juices flowing. (If you’re unsure about using writing prompts, read this). Below is a list of words, phrases, scenes, and ideas to help you get over the hump. Some are ordinary, some are insane. Some are funny and some are serious. Hopefully, there’s something to appeal to whatever sparks the light in your creative mind.

Whether you’re stuck on your NaNo project, finding inspiration for NaNo2, working on your own, or just looking to flex your writing muscles, I hope these ideas can spur something in your brain to trigger the words to keep coming, because that’s all that needs to happen. Persistence makes success inevitable, so just keep showing up. JUST KEEP WRITING. 

Words

  1. Coupon
  2. Fracks
  3. Abject
  4. Supercilious
  5. Phantoms
  6. Promise
  7. Elongate
  8. Placesetting
  9. Coerced
  10. Hedonistic

Phrases

  1. I could feel the heat coming off of it as I approached…
  2. “Neither will do if it’s only us two. A decision must be made”…
  3. Gaping at the blood flowing from the arm, my heart raced…
  4. The canine stalked the edge of my field of vision, sniffing lightly and pawing at the damp ground…
  5. Thoughts cascaded across the void of my blank mind as I doodled the snippets of coherence into my notebook giving life to the words…
  6. “You can keep saying it, but that won’t make it true. A mockingbird may call like a blue jay, but she will be no less a mocking bird,”…
  7. “What is it?” I asked as she held up the strange object glowing red under the beam of the flashlight,”…
  8. The circacelias are tripeds common of our environment. They inhabited Earth for a quarter century but found the air excessively dry with a slight taste of nitrogen, entirely distasteful to their heightened senses…
  9. In the blackened stillness, a sound rose in the distance, quiet at first but steadily increasing in volume and intensity…
  10. “When there’s nothing else to do, you do nothing. Quicker you learn that, better off you’ll be,”…

Scenes

  1. A decrepit old barn on the outskirts of town
  2. A restaurant in the middle of a busy intersection crowded with people
  3. The small star a little to the left of the outer edge of the universe
  4. A luxury yacht, meant to sail the Atlantic Ocean, parked on its rig in the neighbor’s backyard
  5. In bed on a warm night in the middle of August
  6. The arctic tundra just after the sun has risen for the first time in months
  7. The odorous and dirty basement of an otherwise well-maintained mansion
  8. The smokey remnants of the latest town to fall victim of the robot apocolypse
  9. A tunnel leading from the base of an oak tree into the depths of the earth
  10. A pristine dinner table with ornate bone china and elaborate place settings awaiting the hostess to be seated

Ideas

  1. Your protagonist finds a red shirt
  2. Kill a freshly developed character
  3. Introduce an animal into a scene
  4. Your antagonist misses an opportunity
  5. Your protagonist makes a pun involving ducks
  6. A side character has a crazy dream
  7. The protagonist receives an unexpected package
  8. A realistic shared dream unites characters
  9. A male character steals a piece of cheese from a female character
  10. A female character has a conversation with another female character about the Bechdel test  (see what I did there?)

 

That’s it for now. I’m going to get back to writing and hopefully you are, too. If you want more writing prompts, click here. If you’ve got your own to share, please leave them in the comments. Otherwise, JUST KEEP WRITING.

Bare List on The First Draft

It’s that time of year again. A time that new and established authors alike gather to defy the clock and better judgement to bring their characters to life through writing at least 50,000 words in 30 days. We are thirteen days into NaNoWriMo and that means that your social media feeds are filled with word counts and declarations of early victory, but amid that chorus of cheer and exuberance are silent cries of self-doubt and even defeat. I hear those cries. I see them in the absence of updates from a once elated newbie. I see them in the lamentations of the disenchanted first-timers disappointed in their work. While I see it more this time of year, it is there throughout the course of the year. Every time someone sits down to write a first draft. The words start flowing as a dream comes to fruition but the fear, doubt, writers block, and sometimes just life step in and rob us of our vigor, our determination. You might think that this is an affliction specific to the first time writer, because seasoned writers, we know that this happens EVERY SINGLE TIME so surely we are prepared. Surely we can shake it off and continue pounding out the words, but this is not always the case, because doubt lies. It pretends that this time is different. That we may have survived before, but surely we can’t again. So, for those that are experiencing it for the first time or need a reminder, I’m here with tips for fighting what I have deemed the First Draft Fear Monster.

FDFM is a beast that attacks writers at they fight to complete a first draft. Its weapons include but are not limited to: making you want to scrap every word (maybe the entire concept) because it tells you this brilliant work is stupid, it tells you every word is wrong and illogical, makes you doubt that you can ever accomplish this dream, tries to get you to shelve your work, and generally steals your desire, maybe even ability, to write. It’s soul crushing enemy, but I promise you it is beatable. Here’s how:

  1. Redefine Your Expectation – A lot of writers, especially newbies, think that a great book is written on the first time out. That the purpose of the first draft is to put pen to page and create a work that simply needs a few typos fixed to be ready to go to print. That is categorically incorrect. I’m not saying it’s never happened, but it’s rare and setting yourself up to that standard is asking for failure. Instead, think of yourself as a sculptor except you can’t just go out and buy a slab of marble, you have to create it. That is the first draft. You are building a giant hunk of rock that you can contour and detail, hammer at and cut away. It is not the masterpiece. It is the canvas on which you will create it.
  2. Don’t Get Married to Your Notions– Every author has started one story to end up in another. Every author has cut a character they thought they would love or changed a setting they once thought was important. You are not required to write anything. Having an idea does not set it in stone. If your story starts to go a different direction, let it. If an unforeseen character gnaws at the edges of your mind, give them a spotlight. Evolving your story line does not mean you have failed your novel. It means you have given it room to create itself.
  3. Forget Perfection – That’s not a thing right now. It may never be a thing. Even J.K. Rowling has things she would have done differently if she got a chance to write Harry Potter again for the first time. You are going to edit and edit and edit this thing and just when you think you can’t anymore, you will edit it again. Then, even when it’s published and on display for the world to see and you think “my gosh I’ve done it and it’s perfect” you will reread it and still come up with things, however minor, that aren’t perfect because perfection is impossible. Everything about writing is subjective, not just to the individual but to the individual’s mood, circumstances, hunger level, etc. I cannot iterate this enough. Perfection is the enemy of publication and you will kill yourself and your dream if you hold yourself to its fantasy.
  4. Change Your Definition of Failure – The hard truth of embarking on any manuscript is that it may never succeed in being published. That does not make it a failure. It makes it a stepping stone to your ultimate goal. Harper Lee never would have published To Kill a Mockingbird if she hadn’t first written Go Set a Watchman and the world NEEDS To Kill a Mockingbird (GSaW maybe not as much). Writing is the only forum in which we hold our first attempt as the definition of success. You probably didn’t get the first job you applied for, but you learned how to get better at interviewing. You didn’t win the first marathon you entered, but you got better as you kept going. Michael Jordan, Peyton Manning, Simone Biles…they have all lost and they are all champions in their fields. Your current work isn’t the next great classic. So what? That doesn’t mean it’s unimportant. That doesn’t mean it isn’t purposeful. That doesn’t mean you have failed. It means you are working towards success.
  5. Write – There is this great misconception in the writing community that if you put things away, this spark of inspiration will hit you in the middle of the night or a big meeting and you will suddenly have all you need to steamroll to the end of your work. For most people, this is bull. Ninety-nine percent of the time, if you put something on the shelf, it will stay there. Will you think of it? Sure, but then you’ll berate yourself for putting it there in the first place, then the FDFM will use it as ammunition to torture you with until you’ve lost your will to write again. The exclusive way to shut that lying beast up is to write. Write until your you’ve found the story. Write until it’s turned into a new story. Write until you can proudly proclaim to that monster “you are wrong. I know I can write because I have written” and when you’ve done that, write some more.

You are not alone. People out there pounding out the words, sending queries, and signing deals…they are not different than you. They just learned to fight the self-doubt, the agonizing pain of the writing process, and you will, too. The only way you can possibly fail is by not trying, and you’re here. You’re writing. Despite all the life, worry, time constraints, etc. Despite all of it, you are writing and that is how I know that one day you will be able to say “I have written”.

Share this with anyone succumbing to the First Draft Fear Monster. Have you battled and won? What tools would you add to the belt?

Bare List on Father’s Wisdom [Excerpt]

The following is a removed portion of the forthcoming novel, Line of Law and Justice. For more behind-the-scenes looks at your favorite characters and updates on Line of Law and Justice, make sure to follow this blog.

Growing up, Jeb had been embarrassed of his mother’s staunch independence; the times just didn’t allow for that kind of drive on a female. Women were supposed to stay home and tend to the house and children, but Rita chose not only to work on the family farm but to be nurse. Not because she needed to work. Sure, they were dirt poor but so was everyone else in town. She worked because she wanted to, which added insult to injury as far as Jeb was concerned. She still managed to put dinner on the table and make clothes for the boys, but she was the only mom on the block getting ready for work in the morning, and she was loaded with attitude. On more than one occasion, she argued with his father, Jonah, in public.

Long about the time Jeb started dating the ever-ready-to-please Jillian, he began thinking he had a handle on women and asked his dad why he put up with his mother acting that way. Through a tobacco stained grin, Jonah Tate replied simply, “she must be here cause she wants me, cause she sure as shit don’t need me, and it feels damn good to be wanted, son.”

The allure of the sentiment was lost on Jeb. Proper society dictated that a man should be the breadwinner and a woman should be grateful for it. A man could only be truly fulfilled if allowed to care for his keep, to work his body and mind and come home to a wife that showed her appreciation through a clean house, tasty dinner, and winning smile. His dad could deny it until the cows came home, but it was an embarrassment for a woman to do for herself. Besides, Jeb assumed the statement was a backhanded jab at his mate of choice. Jonah Tate was no fan of Jillian. Thought Jeb would grow tired of “messin with weak women that had more in their bra than in their brains”. Big talk for a guy who had to get permission from his wife to go out rabbit hunting.

 

Bare List on Being a Writer

Despite public opinion, being a writer is not sitting in a hip cafe swilling lattes as the words flow from your fingertips, though there is a lot of coffee involved. It’s not sleeping late and working an hour a day as the money rolls in by the bucket load with little to no effort on your part. It’s not lazy or frilly.

Being a writer is pounding away at your computer at three a.m. when the rest of the house sleeps because that’s when inspiration strikes. It’s laboring away, fueled by caffeine and desire to get in those final words before you’ve got to get the kids to karate. Being a writer is working through lunch because the hunger pangs issuing from your stomach cannot drown out the inspiration screaming in your brain. Burning the toast because you’re lost in thought on your current story arc, scrambling to get the kids tucked into bed because you don’t want to miss a minute with them, but you can’t miss this deadline. Sitting with your computer on your lap trying to tune out the television in the background because you want to be able to sit with your significant other, but you also have to get these words on the page. Being a writer is about writing and revising so many times you could recite your novel by heart. It’s about knowing that you can never revise it enough to be perfect and learning to accept that, no matter how much you hate it, because perfection is the enemy of publishing. Being a writer is finding the courage to call it complete and take the chance on someone else loving it as much as you do.

Being a writer is querying, over and over again until your fingertips bleed and being met with rejection almost every time. Sometimes that means being a writer is starting again, rearranging and reediting so many times there can’t possibly be anything else to change, but then finding more you can do anyway, and even that will be rejected by someone. Being a writer is about having the grit to get up from all those rejections, because somewhere deep inside you, you know that this is what you are meant to do and if you just keep writing, you just keep querying, one day you will get past that hurdle and it will all be worth it.

And when that day comes, when your book is finally accepted, then being a writer is about making deadlines. Signing deals, missing dinners because you’ve got a big meeting, building your social media presence so that you can talk to the community of people with whom you want to share your work, yourself. Being a writer is about wondering how you can possibly get all of this done and realizing you can’t and watching the laundry pile up in the corner because you are not Mary Sue and something’s gotta give sometimes. Being a writer is about praying til your knees bleed that the creation you’ve poured yourself into, sacrificed yourself for, will be accepted and hopefully even loved by at least a few souls who wanted, needed your work.

When all of that is done, when you’ve found your people and you’ve given everything you have to this precious work of art, being a writer is about letting it go, giving it to the world and starting all over again with the next work, because now that you’ve tasted the pain, lived through the torment and come out the other side, you have no choice but to do it again. Because being a writer is giving yourself to the agony of writing to be able to experience the joy of having written.

Being a writer is grind. Being a writer is a grueling commitment. Being a writer is work. So, when your friends roll their eyes, when society scorns you for their beliefs of what it means to be a writer, you don’t listen. In fact, you tell them to eff off, because being a writer means occasionally having to tell people that they don’t have a damn clue.

Not sure you can tell them? Let them read about it in your next book because you’re too busy grinding to talk to them anyway.