Eight years ago today, my life ran headlong into the turning point signpost. CRASH.
I became a mother that day.
At that time, he, my tiny child, forced me to stop and reassess life in the strictest of senses. He was about six weeks early, and only five pounds, but his presence (as with most babies) was enough to accomplish that feat for both my husband and me. As I look back, I have to admit that I am not at all certain where either of us would be if he had not come into our lives when he did.
Fast forwarding to this past November, around the point of our younger son’s fourth birthday, I paused again, and decided to really get this blog thing going. This time, I knew, I needed to be less pedantic (a genetic trait, I’m sure), and focus in on the journey that lies ahead. Now, of course, I have about zero idea how to make it work well, how to get and expand an audience, but it needs to be there, as a goal. If I let it slip away, I know it will be about as bad as the fact that we never took pictures of baby bumps as they grew. I still deeply regret that, even if none of our ancestors ever did it, it seems like I missed out on something in that record-keeping failure.
So, starting this thing over again on my son’s birthday seems somewhat appropriate, since he was the one who not only allowed, but pushed me to finish writing my first book. Never mind that I have decided to shelve it, until some later date, after so many rejection letters and a big flop on my face that I’ll get to later. Jane Austen and Louisa May Alcott did the same thing. They must have realized what I have realized (I hope); sometimes the first thing you write is just not going to be IT.
This was not an easy place for me to get to. Yes, indeedy. I had, what, maybe an emotional meltdown before I could even look at it again, and certainly a whole year of doubt before I felt like getting back into writing again. It’s not easy to decide to put the “baby” into deep storage, something like putting it into a medically induced coma. It ain’t waking up anytime soon, which is hard for me. I put about 8 years of my life into writing the blasted thing (again, I know this is not a new story for a writer to tell), from dreaming the concept up one night in a tent on Cape Cod (boy, did Stephanie Meyer steal the thunder on that origina story), to struggling with it through college and crappy working years (I was writing it on the job at one point, making it look like I was working on actual job-related stuff), until that little baby person allowed me to be an at-home mom. Then, it came so easily. I had my first laptop, bought off ebay, and I just pounded away on it, night after night, after he was safely tucked away in bed.
What brought it and me to our respective knees? WeBook and its lure of democratic publication (or so one is led to believe). No, I don’t fault the site or what it does, really, but it did upend me completely: I won a voting cycle, like really won it. But the editorial staff told me (after I numbly asked why I was rejected) that the book required too much editing. Talk about a sucker punch. It rolled me up into a little ball of grief, and I went on a scorched earth campaign to remove myself from the site completely (stuff still sits under my user name, but there is nothing there, and I have not gone back to the site since that point). It was like a horrible bleakness sitting soddenly inside me. How could I have been so stupid to think that anybody would grab hold of my book and take it on the first go? Don’t answer that.
I only knew that I had no idea how to edit it. Anymore or at all. Yuk. What can I equate it to? I have read and read and read it so many times. It begins to be the squawking albatross sitting on the headboard at night. Yes, I know it needs work. I just have no idea how to make it work. The thought of trying to take a machete to it at this point leaves me, left me, very depressed. If you haven’t picked up on that already.
Pushed to the edge, I seriously sat around wondering why I was writing, asking whether I was any good at it at all. Where did I get this idea that I could write? I wasn’t one of those prodigies. Writing didn’t enter my life until I was a senior in high school, when two teachers began to encourage me to do so. I’ve tried to remember the things they told me, which was what I did during college when the rigidity of professorial critique informed me that I was “too casual” in writing papers for them. (I had to cling to some sense of self in the face of the state university machine. So I rewrote the way they wanted, while flipping them off with their own style. Like the Roman History prof who wanted us to write papers on Colleen McCullough’s Julius Caesar. I did disembowel that book rather handily.)
So, I had two women who had believed in me and encouraged me in the beginning. What had I gotten since then for “props”? All the people, the common man, who had read what I offered up, and voted for me. And my husband, who is honest to a pain, who told one of his friends that his book was crap; he told me that what I had was good. I figure I can take him at his word, since he tells me when my meals are bland or crappy, and has no problem getting “real” when I forget to wash his favorite jeans. Okay, I know it’s not completely impartial. He loves me, and has some investment in my happiness.
Obviously, I needed to stop and think over everything, which I believe I have done. And now, I have a cunning plan. First! I shall write as many projects as I can over the next year (hopefully between five and ten, of any length, as long as they are fait accompli). Next! I may find a class on how to write a query letter that doesn’t sound awkward, needy, or condescending (I don’t know if any of those were at issue, but I’ll just assume I’m pretty shitty at it). Last! Relentless optimism! My husband will continue to make fun of me on this (calling it idealism or some other capitalist slur), but I will beat down the haters with it (that, and maybe an inflatable sword…?).