——“A person is a fool to become a writer. His only compensation is absolute freedom. He has no master except his own soul, and that, I am sure, is why he does it.” —Roald Dahl —–
—The Blank Page—
Sitting down to write this left me even as often writers are, staring at the bank page, with a kind gone blank, thinking..do I want more coffee or do I want to take a nap?
For a moment, even I as a writer who writes for many reasons, could not think of one. My mind had hit a wall.
I left. Took a bike ride hoping that the exercise would jolt me out of nap state. I ate because perhaps this feeling was grouchiness was of not having done so in a good long day creeping up on me. I enjoyed a cup of coffee overlooking the water and enjoying nature thinking that perhaps I would meditate and clear my mind, let it wander and the writing would come.
Anytime that I am ready to pay attention to any other task, my mind wanders easily to ideas or entire stories, song lyrics, verse or simply word or phrase that knit together in my mind. They come to me like water to a barrel in a Spring rain. They rush at me like the melted mountain snows down a river. I must always stop and write them down…lest I forget. Though sometimes I look back later with jolted memory and others with wonder at what I meant by what I wrote.
These ‘must write them now’ moments most strike while in the shower, half way through sex (a much inspired time, not due to boredom- writing at these moments is a little different than creating a grocery list) and when there are other tasks at hand or other things that need my full attention. Even separate writing topics.
But sit and try to write and blank the mind goes.
This is not always the case.
Don’t get me wrong, I jest and though there is truth in all jest, there are those moments when I can sit to a blank page and write….and write…and write. Or pick up where I left off somewhere in the middle of Chapter six or sixteen. Those moments do happen for us writers…for me, at any odd and given time and even the scheduled and planned. But have it on my calendar schedule or my To Do list for the day and damn it all to hell I curse the natural plan maker that I am. Thankfully, most often than not, my problem is never a writer’s block, but too much to write at all times.
I never had the illusion that being a Writer would be a sweet and easy job work from home in our pajamas and sip on coffee and be this free spirit with all this free time kind of job.
I never had the Carrie Bradshaw “syndrome” of the young female writer (also living in NYC at one time) of one day of writing all in within perhaps an hours time on a Sunday and paid enough to afford a lovely apartment (I doubt a walk up in her shoes) in a beautiful BrownStone of NYC now or in the 1990’s, and afford such shoes and lunches with the girls. Don’t get me wrong, any young lady like me might dream and I do dream plenty, but I am far too logical for that to have been a shattered illusion at any time. My twenties were filled with enough shattered illusion of many other things created by a naive young mind to have added some of the obvious.
Neither did I never have the illusion that I would write one book (in some beautiful single season in some traveled to Paris type place) have it picked up by the first (and best choice of course) Publisher, with a huge advance, sales that exceeded all possible expectations, printed and on the shelf and a check signed out in my name for an amount that would put Bernie Sanders’ Summer home to shame. Maybe even followed up by a movie made of my book, directed and produced by Me. And worldwide language translations that were vast.
No, none of those illusions (though one, again, can dream.)
—Knowing and taking steps—
I knew a bit of what I was stepping into. I had written and published since before I was thirteen, but writing as a job had never crossed my mind. I wrote and submitted or came across a lucky situation here and there without much thought as to why I wrote at all. I always worked multiple jobs, those I learned from, those I made extra money from, and those I climbed up the ladder from. It wasn’t until divorced (for the second time and both before aged 30) that writing as a career hit me a like the ton of bricks type of idea that it was. After some discussion with a professor who pointed out the potential. Sobbing after a divorce in the face of starting over at 30 I asked her which all had meant losing my work/career/job/business “What am I even going to do?” And she replied with an utmost calm, and confidence so strong that even then in my misery I felt it, “What you already do.”
The next years included living in a place I chose which did not offer the jobs I would have chosen. However, did offer some of the lack of brain work I needed to write on the side while making sure my bills were paid. The location itself offered many things that I needed in spirit for reason to stay, some for a sudden unsureness of leaving. Some because too much of my life had changed so rapidly and I needed a steady ground. The island offered a richness in time and ability to research, learn, go back to school, and also to write. Three jobs and full-time school for three years and I still had this ability, with enough interaction with people to keep me from closing in on myself, losing myself to just the ideas in my head, or becoming too much of a hermit who forgot to put pants on in a day. And a writer bloomed.
—Life gives you your story—-
And setbacks….when came a time of spending seven months in jail. I had planned a trip to India and in suddenly disappearing from my friend’s crowd and off the face of the Earth, that was where many had assumed I’d gone. Others you realized weren’t friends at all. I never made it past the Causeway, exotic jungle of a different kind but not at all of the planned.
I dove into my head in those months, I made plans, I made stories and whenever I could get my hands on a scrap of paper and bendy pen I wrote them, too, as well as observations of study of the women among me. What came to me most was how women made the most of what little they had. How resilient even the weakest and least resilient women naturally was. How weak the women of my life had always been. Especially those I’d been raised from. A writer makes use of any situation and all life handed to them. A wait in a line at the bank or a wait behind a brick wall. No time is wasted (except when we spend hours staring at the bank page given an opportunity to write.)
Seven months of June to January, Summer to Winter. Months and Seasons, holidays and birthday, age lost and gray hair streaking through.
And then came freedom of constraints of concrete walls but not at all of peoples judgements and opinions. Of reality on what lay outside. Of homelessness and loss of all good people you once had in your life. Of truly knowing you had no friends. Of finally seeing the weakness of a lover. Of no mother.
There are no secrets on such a small island. I had options of leaving and starting over, but rather I gave it due time to walk through with my head held high, my focus straight and my fear unshown. God, I feared so much. But I needed the island, my freedom, and my time again to show me that I could face those fears, that time to come to understand that those opinions mattered not at all.
In that time of also now suffering anxiety of crowds, noise, and sensory overload, I threw myself into a job at a restaurant in the middle of the tourist season. With no ID and barely owning my own name, it was what could be managed quickly to provide my own apartment and not be that person in a doorway on a rainy and freezing January night as I had walked and shuddered once realizing that I was. I jumped into many lakes of fear head first. I also began to gather my strength for the next.
—Using experience for writing and making it happen, the puzzle pieces align and the sun doth shine—-
Then came the opportunity and time to focus again on my writing, though I had dabbled, I was too exhausted from heat, hard physical hot and heavy work, living on four hours of sleep at best, of recovering from seven months of malnutrition, laying down on a hard bunk 23 hours a day, (not allowed to exercise) no sunlight, and the anxiety sensory overload and the emotional exhaustion of fear, sadness, loneliness, and disappointment, and abandonment over and over again, and exhuasted of the free world to really have much more left in me for writing.
Then was a time when I had moved past that, grown stronger, found the self esteem I’d once had again and a time in a sunlight lit loft with love in my cold life again (and you can be strong all you want but a life without love enjoyed is only empty, it may not be a NEED as much as a want all you claim, but love is a need to the human’s soul as much as you may not admit) I also had emotional support which I had not realized just how much a year of my life had lacked. Or thirty-three. But the financial opportunity through saving, a great loft at a great price, life shared with a great love, and a great grant that came my way all at once opened the door from a world of no chains but yet no freedom to a world bright with hope again. I had unadulterated time to write.
—-Knowing where to start. All the time given. No excuses. Now what?—–
Now I was left completely by myself for months at a time through a full year to do all the writing, pajamas wearing and coffee sipping to my hearts desire And with the same timing falling on the kick off of NaNoWriMo 2015 I had all of the encouragement, fire in my belly and How To articles at my fingertips. My story was already gathered sand, all I had to do was to form it into something solid. All went well straight away. But then it drizzled off. It became harder. The wall became my most studied subject. I would go meet people for coffee or take walks or do many other things of my own free will and time, but write. Stuck halfway from finished project (first draft complete) I got bored, antsy, I needed to move about. After some time I realized that my year would go by much quicker than a blink and I would lose my ability to write full time. That I would have wasted an opportunity. That the most valuable thing in the world we own is time and the one thing we can never get back once lost is time. That to achieve a life as a writer I must work and discipline myself into a life as a writer And so I began to mold myself from a woman who wrote to a woman who was a writer.
—-Self Discipline. Being your own boss.—-
A year later, training myself, continuously learning…and still doing so. Writing, writing and writing some more. Submit and be rejected and submit again. She makes for a beautiful list! Learn, refine, build and put myself out there, give myself risk. Wake up every day and get dressed, make my coffee and sit down to work. Do the small things, do the big things. Write the short story, poem, song…send it, don’t hide it. Finish what you start. Write the novel, the book, the longer pieces. Learn the path of your writing. And study your craft. Learn and know your industry. Writing as a career must be treated as writing as a career. This is not a hobby. I had fixed companies, I needed to treat my writing as a business and walk in as a fixer. For no less than five minutes a day I viewed my work from that eye, and for the other 23 hours and 55 minutes I would create something that could be fixed, edited, submitted, or even trashed. But with something, there is something to work with SOMETHING that might be published, with nothing but a blank page nothing can be done at all.
—It is the journey, not the destination—-
It is easy to become one’s own prison. To not work hard enough. To hold ourselves back from our own potential. To be lazy. These are lessons to learn, things to push beyond…being human.
Now I am on another journey in life, another freedom beyond my four corners. My anxiety remains but it has muted. I’ve tested myself, I’ve failed at some. I have set goals and I work to achieve them.
My writing continues to the next level. Through the next story in life.
Why do I write? Because in no uncertain terms within my stories I am free.
—“I want to write because I have the urge to excel in one medium of translation and expression of life. I can’t be satisfied with the colossal job of merely living. Oh, no, I must order life in sonnets and sestinas and provide a verbal reflector for my 60-watt lighted head.” – Sylvia Plath —–