Throw out 50 Thoughts #1 – I am a Writer

writing notesLast Monday I wrote about clearing mental clutter–tossing aside the limiting thoughts that weigh me down. I considered a number of options and decided that I needed to start with the big one first.

I don’t want to be a writer. I want to write. There is a difference, at least for me.

At the start of last year I stated, “I am  a writer.” I would own it. This was my job, and I would treat it as such.

I’m a methodical kind of gal. I know how to execute. I got up every morning and thought “What do I want to write today?”  I produced a lot of material, finished a draft of my novel, did some freelance work. I had so much to say that I couldn’t get it down fast enough. It was exhilarating. It was fun. I published multiple stories. Yay me.

Then something shifted. I got up every morning, and thought “What do I need to write today?” That became “I have to write today,” which became “I don’t know what the heck to write today.” I felt anxious about all of the things I wasn’t doing–platform building, or entering contests, or researching agents. I would never catch up. I was constantly behind.

I’m not going to get all whiny about it, “Boo hoo, writing is so hard, blah blah blah, whatever.”   Truth is, being a writer is hard. The expectations to publish, the stress, the lack of pay, the judgment. You create something and put it out there and everyone is looking for something else.  It’s a lot like cooking dinner for my family.

But the expectation is all me. It’s all in my head. No one ever said I had to be a writer. I don’t have a deadline. There is no done. There is only the writing.

I may never get my novel published, but from what I hear, getting a novel published doesn’t change things much.  I may never make much money, but that’s not what started me writing in the first place. I write because I have stories to tell. I want to make people laugh, or cry, or squeal like they’ve just been handed a cute little puppy.

Writing is not hard. Writing is the easiest thing I do. It’s happiness on a stick. Who doesn’t want that? It’s the label of “writer” that gets in the way. So I’m letting it go.

So, I am not a writer.

Now that that’s finished, excuse me, gotta run. I’ve got some writing to do.

 

What limiting thought will you throw out today?

 

Words by J. B. Everett

Photograph “Writing Notes with Grammy” by Don LaVange  © 2009 Creative Commons

Barnes and Noble

bookstorePlease forgive my gray mood. You see, I’m in mourning.

The Barnes and Noble in town is closing at the end of February.  I went there at least twice a month. I’d get a coffee and wander up and down the aisles, looking at book covers like the labels on wine bottles. I would have no idea what was inside, but I knew what kind of covers had potential. I never walked out without spending less than $50, loaded up with everything from bestsellers to the quirky novels of first-time authors. My string quartet even played music there. It was a perfect blend of my many loves–writing, music and coffee.

Their space is being taken over by the Container Store. Containers of knowledge to be replaced by containers of nothing.

I have nothing personal against the Container Store. Being an anal-retentive, violin-playing Virgo, it’s not surprising that I prefer a world organized into well-labeled, stackable boxes. If they are pretty, even better.

I was perfectly happy, however, with the old Container Store location. I wouldn’t think a Container Store would generate more revenue per square foot than a busy bookstore, but I could very well be wrong. After all, we have a television show about hoarders. We don’t have one about compulsive readers.

When it comes to technology, I’m a little slow on the uptake. A year or so ago, I took my husband’s Kindle for a trial run, and rejected it pretty handily. It was hard for me to see the letters, and dang thing kept turning the pages every time I clicked the handle by accident, which happened almost constantly if I held the Kindle like a normal person. More then that, I missed the feel of the book in my hands. I love to kick back with a book and a cup of tea, snuggle into the sofa and while the hours away turning page after page. How could an electronic device suffice?

With the bookstore closing, however, I had to move out of my Luddite zone. More and more books are available solely in electronic form. My own very well might be. Breaking down and getting some type of electronic reader was a necessity. The mall bookstore only handles bestsellers, and we don’t have any good independents close by, or I would have gone there in the first place.

Knowing that I was unlikely to do it for myself, my husband bought me a Kindle Paperwhite. I’m sort of chagrined to say it.  I love it.

The Paperweight feels much more like a book than the original Kindle. And I love, love, love,  the adjustable font size and the backlit screen. I will be 49 this year. My vision was bad to begin with. Age has only made it worse.  The Paperwhite’s bright screen and enormous letters make me swoon. I feel so efficient, swiping page after page like a speed reader. I can even tuck it in my purse, which is a godsend while waiting 45 minutes in the parking lot for my son to finish practice.

If I want a book, I just push the little shopping cart, search, and bam, there it is. It’s immediate gratification. It’s like streaming video. I don’t want to have to wait two days to get my fix. I read tons, and have a read-me list a mile long. I have the world of print at my fingertips. But the best part? The very best part?

I can read while my husband sleeps.

I don’t have to go downstairs. I don’t lay in bed staring at the back of his head. I don’t even mind the cat sitting on my legs like a bowling ball. I’m reading a book.

I will still miss perusing covers. I purchased so much on impulse, and I suspect that I be missing some gems with great covers, not to mention art books with beautiful pictures or poetry books which utilize space as an alphabet unto itself, but there’s nothing I can do about it.

Unfortunately that’s a lot of nothing which means a lot of something. Luckily I can buy a container for it.

Words by J. B. Everett

Photograph by Martin Cathrae © 2009 Creative Commons

Writing the miles

I am a runner. There is something compelling about moving under your own power. Not that I find it easy. I’m terribly slow and I suspect I look like I’m in pain despite my protestations to the opposite. I breathe like an obscene caller and sweat buckets, although my husband says that when it comes to sweat, I’m an amateur. Those of you who know my husband know that compared to him, most us look like novices no matter what the category.

My neighborhood is a good place to run, and there are a few routes that I like depending upon how many miles I want to put in based on the heat, how my knee is feeling, how much wine I had the night before. Most of my longer paths include a loop on Pensive Lane–downhill on the way out, uphill on the way back. At the top of the hill is a white mailbox.

When I reach that hill, at a minimum, I’ve already run a couple of miles. The only way to get home is to get my tired butt up that grade. It’s not steep, but it is long. Long enough that the while mailbox is lit up by the sun, like a  beacon. I fix my gaze on that mailbox, and push forward, knowing that when I get there…

I have at least another mile to go.

I know this. The distance from that mailbox to my house hasn’t changed once, no matter how fervently I’ve wished it would.   I can’t slow down, I can’t let up, and I can only celebrate for a moment, because I’m not done.

I had two pieces accepted for publication this week. Needless to say, I’m thrilled. I set a goal out there, and I’m getting closer to that mailbox every day. It’s bright and shiny and it’s calling to me, and I’m putting one foot after another until I get there. But I know that when I do, I still have a ways to go before I’m done running. And just like my running, once the path I’ve set gets too easy, if it doesn’t push me hard enough, I’ll have to find a harder one.

But when I do finally reach home, I feel at peace, yet energized at the same time. Ready to take on the day. Ready to climb the hill again tomorrow. So I’ll take  a moment and celebrate but no more, because I’m not done. I have a least another mile to run.
Words by J. B. Everett

Photograph by mtsofan © 2008 Creative Commons

Chill Woman. It’s a big bookstore.

A friend recommended a book, suggesting that I’d love it because it had yin/yang sisters that fought just like the ones in my WIP novel. One even had the same name. I recall my reaction being something like crap, crap, crap, crap. I sent her an email to that effect–crap, crap, crap, Coffee Tuesday? Hugs!

I thought my book was unique, despite the fact that I was having a hard time writing a synopsis that didn’t sound like the lovechild of a cliché and an APB description that matches half the people I know. Believed to be a male, approximately six feet tall, with brown hair. Last seen wearing tennis shoes and a white tee shirt.  It’s about  figuring out the difference between.  It’s about listening to your own. It’s about maintaining your integrity when.  It’s about a woman.

I’m so screwed. I need a hook.

My friend was surprised I was so unhappy. She thought if people found the themes and relationships relevant enough to buy the book  she’d recommended, wouldn’t they find mine just as appealing?

I buy a lot of books.  I can’t get out of Target without at least 3 or 4. It makes me feel better about the 5 lb bag of M&M’s.  Barnes and Noble opens an extra register when I walk in.  My shelves of my nightstand are already packed, so I’ve taken to stacking books on the floor. There are a lot. My room looks like Hoarders, the PBS version.

How different are they? In the details, very. But at the core, there are universal stories we all experience — falling in love with the right, or the wrong person. Confronting what you thought you knew for sure, finding that nothing is certain. Having to choose paths, knowing that taking one will separate you from those on the other.

There are far more books, magazines, websites, chapbooks, and ebooks than I could ever stack next to my bed. The industry is broad enough to hold both David Sedaris and the Dali Lama, Stephen King and Danielle Steele. Still, every time I hear a plot line that seems close to mine, it doesn’t feel that big. It’s hard not to get obsessed with “The Hook.”

My wise friend brought off the ledge. I thought about all of those teen vampire books and I smacked myself on the head so she wouldn’t have to. A hook is no guarantee of uniqueness, nor is it synonymous with quality. I don’t need a better hook, or a better book. I just need a better synopsis.  Lucky for me, I’m a writer.

Words by J. B. Everett

Photograph by Callum Scott

Call it Like I See It

It is the simplest of questions.

“So, what do you do?”

And it has the simplest of answers.

“I’m a writer.”

And yet, I hesitate to say it.  It makes me think of a conversation I had with a young man of the age when one believes they understand deep universal truths the rest of the world is too unenlightened to recognize.  He was a poet, among other things, and I mentioned that I was as well.  He scoffed at me.  “Everyone who puts two rhyming words on a piece of paper thinks they’re a poet.” He also thought that writing on a computer was like sleeping with the enemy.  I responded that while my computer may screw me over from time to time, I had never taken it to bed.  But upon further analysis, perhaps I should consider it, since it’s more dependable than a quill, not to mention most men I’ve ever known, my husband excepted, and, by the way, my poems don’t rhyme, asshat.  Okay, I didn’t call him an asshat.  But it was implied.

But his attitude isn’t unusual. So when people ask me what I do, I hedge.  “I’m a former management consultant.”  Look of interest and admiration.  She’s a player.  She’s smart and ambitious, worth talking to.  “I left the business to focus on my family.”  Face freezes into a benign smile, registering fear of a long discussion about minivans and the plague of No Child Left Behind. Eyes drifting to other, more interesting conversation partners.  “Now I write and play music.  Just finished my first novel.”  Skeptical smile.  Select response while barely disguising disbelief.  Options?  Really, how nice, that’s great.

My answer.  “I know, it sounds really pretentious.”

Most people laugh, a silent assent. My favorite response was, “It only sounds pretentious if you say you’re working on your second novel.”  I started the second two weeks ago.  Now what do I say?

A few years ago, I wrote an essay about running called What Is She Running From? –my only published work outside of the business sphere.  In it, I describe the power of naming.  People are reluctant to take on positive titles for themselves–they must be conferred by others.  Even titles as simple as “loyal customer.”  Once given, however, people own them and act accordingly.  In that simple experiment, I called myself a runner (despite never having run a mile) to see how it would change my behavior.  Almost ten years later, I’m still reaping the benefits.

So now my goal is to own it.  I’m a writer.  Let the eyerolling commence.

I cannot change the preconception that every bored housewife thinks they are a novelist-in-waiting, or that the industry is a spirit-killing, next-big-thing obsessed machine.  The only thing I can change is me.

So I refuse to wait until the industry validates my new vocation by choosing to publish my work.  I’m going rogue. I’m a writer.  It’s expected.

Photograph by Charles Sanford