Sunday, March 1, 2015

a post hiatus apology ... to myself

in my life, for most of my teen and adult years, I have always tried to BE SOMETHING. anything. I just wanted to do something GREAT

when I was 12 my father took my best friend and I to Guitar Center. I made him buy me an acoustic guitar, as my best friend Noelle had recently purchased her first electric guitar. I then made my father buy me guitar lessons. someday, I was going to BE SOMETHING, I was going to be a rockstar! it was challenging, the lessons (to me) were hard. and I gave up without ever really trying. when I was in high school I took Creative Writing with Ms. Shannon so many times I had to get a note approving it from the academic counselor. I went on to college, to study creative writing, and soon - someday - I was going to BE SOMETHING. I was going to be a writer. but, I took one hard Shakespeare class, and failed, I was discouraged and left college. I'm what my father calls, "a campaign quitter".

But, I have always been passionate about story telling. It's never truly been an issue. because it was never truly a THING in which I TRIED. when I was young I used to tell lies (A LOT!) and my older sister always said "you sure are an amazing story teller, where do you come up with this shit?" the truth is even at that young age I loved the fantasy life, I loved pretending things were way more fantastical than they really were. I remember writing stories from a young age, all the way into college age and writing fanfiction about HANSON. YEP. yikes. but, it was never a task I had to give up on, because, again, I never really tried.

a little over two years ago the idea for Alabama Sons came out of me like a rocket. I had no idea where they came from, how they got there, or who they were. but, Penny had a story, a story that was similar to mine. so, she wanted to be told. I came home from work one day, sat on the edge of my bed (still in my work clothes) and wrote the first chapter in one oddly fluid moment. my then roommate, Jill, was invested in my success. she'd sit with me at times and work out the kinks, and the twists. (she's responsible for that one BIG twist if you've read it.) my friends and family alike all invested. and my sister said "I knew you were going to do this all along."

but, the book came out, one book as part of a trilogy and though I was proud somehow I felt like I had cheated myself. I wasn't supposed to succeed. remember? i failed at every GREAT thing i tried. in terms of sales, I didn't "succeed". I sold 1,000 books combined print and digital. but, I loved my book. to me, I had finally done something, and I didn't quit. I started getting discouraged when friends and family said they bought the book, but never followed up with me on whether they enjoyed it or not. my sister, who bought 100 print copies and gave them to everyone she saw for a month, and proudly said "this is my sister!" has still never read it. I worried about my success being limited to one. 


I tried and tried and tried to write the next book in the trilogy. when I started the first book I knew, EXACTLY, how to write the characters to set them up for their own books in the trilogy. but, I sat, for months, looking at the manuscript and just ... nothing. it became obvious to me "ah, this is writers block!" I said to myself. so I did writing prompts, and they were good. I read a few books, and it was fun. it felt like vacation. after a few months I sat back down at my writing desk, "okay Chasing Sons, it's now or never!" ... and and then never happened. 

I became acutely aware that I was struggling with writing because of my own state of health. emotionally, and physically. in the outside world, I was in a toxic emotionally abusive relationship. one I had to quit my job to get away from. I was sad for weeks, pulling and picking apart my life and how I had gone from a happy writer, in the BEING SOMETHING I had always wanted, into someone that could barely move from the couch. 

I gained twenty pounds, I couldn't even bare to open my $1,600 MacBook, I read a lot. and I drank a lot. I was depressed. 

then, it happens, everyone you see says "so when's the next book?" it's harmless, and they are only trying to show you their enthusiasm for the fact that you did it. you published a book. but I suppose in bleak comparison this is like when newlyweds get asked "so when are you making us babies?" (I'm sorry to my best friends Christina and Joe for ever asking this - repeatedly - for a year.) and all you feel is defeated, because it just isn't happening right now. I can't even tell you how many proverbial shotguns I shot through people's heads. 

I wish I could say I have 60 books in me that can come out at the drop of a hat. but the truth is, I can't. I see the authors I love releasing 2 or 3 books a year and I think "how is this possible?!" I compare myself to them because I have always compared myself to others. it made the depression worse. 

but, then two amazing things happened. one of them changed my life forever, and one of them opened my eyes to a new life. 

in November, on thanksgiving, I got a call that one of my best friends had taken his own life. it destroyed me. he was my person. he was the boy you dream about loving you for the rest of your life. he was the best friend that picks you up by the boot straps and drags you, kicking and screaming, out of the mud. because he ALWAYS put you first. I covered my room in pictures of us, I tacked his picture to the fridge, and the prayer card from his service sat on my dashboard in the car. I surrounded myself with him because I was too afraid to let go. I was afraid my depression was going to take me, too.

Roland and I, in our happy place - Hogwarts!

and then, after months of discouraging myself away from telling anymore stories, the first amazing thing happened. a friend of mine were sitting around, reading, and mucking about. we were talking about my shortcomings in writing, and how i had been harping on myself to pump out another book. and she said (ever so simply) "you know, Stephen King only writes a book every few years." to which I responded, "Yeah, but Stephen King is great writer." and her simple response floored me, "So are you." 

I was great. My book? It was great. 

then, the second amazing thing happened. I was driving home from work the other night and I was stuck in traffic in front of Moe's that burrito chain place. my friend, the one who has passed on, had worked at a Moe's for a time. and clear as day I heard him yelling at me "Welcome to Moooooe's!!!!" 

and then, all at once, it happened. 

I went home, sat down at my desk, and wrote the entire first chapter of a new book. and it too came out of me like a rocket. except this time I knew who they were, I knew where they came from, and I knew why they came. "they" would be "us".

because, the stories have always been about me, haven't they? the lies were my fantastical life with a little more juice in them. and this story, will be great.

part of being a writer is knowing, fully understanding, that not everything is perfect. fuck, half your JOB in writing is to write the "black moment" in the story and convince the readers to feel that horrible moment you created and they expect you to get them out of. I was setting myself up for something to be GREAT and assuming it hadn't happened because I quit guitar lessons 20 years ago. you get it? you see, for me, if I try something and it doesn't work I feel like I let people down. I'm a feeler. I'm an emotional carnivore. but, as I'm discovering it's okay to feel like this. I just have to make it happen on the pages. I just have to combine my natural Sarah Dessen and Lurlene McDaniel and make the great in me mean something. 

when was the last time you let yourself feel great? 

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