I’ve been finding writing to be really difficult for quite a while. I’m coming up with ideas all the time. I carry a notebook while wandering in the forest or record them on to my phone. Inspired and excited!
Until I sit down. I sit down in front of the computer, or with a book, a pad of paper, post it notes, whatever.. and immediately get up to make myself a snack. Or walk the dog. Or clean the kitchen. Or tidy my desk, make the bed, organize my sock drawer, make vegan creme brulee, take a bath, plan my one woman stage show, hula hoop, learn the rocky horror picture show soundtrack on the piano…the list goes on and on. Anything I can do to keep from writing. Now, some of the stuff on the list is pretty good. A insanely happy side effect of trying to avoid actual writing is that I am playing the piano every day. Even if it’s only for 20 minutes, it’s great. I love that. But the not writing thing started to get really frustrating. Then I found this writing challenge online that was starting soon, january 29, and signed up because, why not? It’s so much easier to do something when I’m accountable to someone else. If Gala wasn’t here and giving me the are-you-seriously-going-to-spend-the-entire-day-reading-that-book-instead-of-taking-me-for-a-walk look..well, yes. I would spend the entire day reading that book.
So my hope was that it would be kind of the same thing with this. Sometimes a push helps.
It’s a 30 day -write every single day- thing, there being a prompt each day to help you along. I don’t think you have to do the prompt, I don’t know if that’s the point. I’m fairly certain the point is to write, every single goddamn day, whether you feel like it or not in the hope that at the end of the month, it won’t be a writing challenge anymore, it will be a writing…whatever the opposite of challenge is…cakewalk? I do like cake so that will suffice. But like I said, the push helps.
At any rate, day one dawns and I am excited. I open the pdf file I’ve downloaded and the first challenge is to write a letter to yourself 10 years ago. Mine was horrible. The first five words of it are “I am paralyzed with fear” it continues on and it just made me feel horrible. It was not a letter I would want to get from anyone, ever, much less myself and so I felt totally justified in taking gala for a walk instead of writing.
But when I came back, I sat down and wrote a letter to a friend, which I actually mailed (!!) a synopsis of a story and started a post that I haven’t published yet about . So that felt like an improvement. Ha! I don’t need your challenge to be a writer!!
Then day two came along but I was still holding onto the fear of having to explain myself to 28 year old me. And day two’s challenge was to write a narrative about a day in my life. My kitchen has never been so clean as it became that day.
I did write another letter to a friend, which I haven’t mailed and started 3 other letters (I secretly want to be the girl who sends people actual letters every now and again..putting it in brackets means I’m whispering and it’s still a secret), all the time reassuring myself that it doesn’t matter what I write, as long as I am. But that doesn’t make the thing I’m afraid of go away.
The last post I wrote was started at the beginning of day three but not finished until yesterday. It took me three (four?) days to write it, there were many many instances of walking away, adding to, editing, re-editing, lamenting, whole sections deleted. It was amongst the hardest things I’ve ever had to write. And I had to write it. I think I’ve been carrying it around for quite some time and perhaps needed the specific challenge of day one to work it out. Looking back is tough, but looking back and holding myself accountable for every decision I’ve ever made, trying to explain those decisions to my younger self? The word cathartic comes to mind.
Feeling much lighter, I went back and re-wrote the letter to my younger self. This time the first line looked like this,
‘I have something very important to tell you. You are good enough.’
Sometimes we just need a bit of a push.
I have something very important to tell you. You are good enough. This notion that you have of people asking you to work for them because they can’t find anyone better is exactly true but not in the way you think. I wish there was some way I could smooth those crippling feelings of self doubt, because the pendulum swing from most amazing to worst person ever does not help. It will only damage a really beautiful friendship and cause you to over-extend yourself way too often, leading to personal injury. When that voice in the back of your head says, ‘I don’t think I should climb on that table to run this last cable because I’m really tired and have been working since 8 am and it’s midnight’. please please please listen to it. Because it turned out to be not the last cable anyhow. There’s always more to do. And how can you do it with broken bones?
On the up side, you’re going to Paris soon. You will beat out the Marianne Faithfull song and make it there before 37. It’s going to be everything you imagined it would be and a whole bunch you didn’t. I know there is no way I can sway you, convince you to wait and save more money but I can tell you, you’ll learn a valuable lesson about going on someone else’s dime. You’ll find a great friend where you didn’t expect it and he will likely save your life, at least your sanity. The only piece of advice I can give you that might help in this time? Speak. Sing. Don’t be afraid. You have a voice and you need to use it. You are good enough. Don’t stand outside, waiting for the courage. No one is going to open that door for you. When you are invited to sing, do it. They are not asking so they can make fun of you when you fail. These are people who love you, who want to see you succeed. You will regret things you didn’t do. Trust me.
When you leave Paris, it will feel like failure but you will stumble into a career path that will enliven you like nothing before. And a relationship with a relative that you never expected. It will be so good for you. The pendulums’ path will lessen more and more. You’ll acquire skills, don’t ever stop doing that. Level up. Earn them in real time though. Taking an online course for marine archaeology is very interesting but it has little practical application. Besides, turn off the damn computer, leave the house, engage with life. When you get here, you’ll wish you had gone tango dancing every single week you lived in Vancouver. It’s so easy to stay in, but I promise you if you keep doing what’s easy you’ll spend way too much time worrying that you haven’t done, aren’t doing enough with your life.
Once you determine that eating soy is interfering with your underactive thyroid (get your thyroid checked, btw), your health will be better than ever before. You have no excuses. BECAUSE YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH. I wish you could figure that out sooner. I know you won’t. There is music in your future (we joined a punk rock choir!) and more Paris (and 8 other countries) and brief bouts of love, some that will break your heart, some that won’t.
A little bit of heavy. There is a time when you will have your thumb pulled off in an accident. I’m not going to warn you when or where because, as crazy as this sounds, it needs to happen. Perspectives need to be shifted now and again and sometimes it takes something like a thumb getting ripped off to shift them. Besides they reattach the thumb quite well and that fearful moment you have in the hospital about never playing the piano again? It stays. I play all the time. I even sing along. I know that fact will blow your mind. Yes, we learn to sing at the same time as playing, it’s awesome. Also, let that be the first thing you say in the hospital. ‘I’m really good at video games’ doesn’t inspire them to try and save the thumb as quickly as ‘I play the piano’.
There is so much more to say but you’ll get there. And while I like where we’ve ended up, I would suggest take more time to just sit still and consider what you actually want. This habit of perpetual movement to keep from having to make a decision on that gets tired and while there are moments that shine, most experiences blur and become intangible. There are moments when conventional has grand appeal, because the feast and famine thing gets old too. Start saving money now. Please! I know it seems difficult because there isn’t a lot right now, but there will be and your spending habits are really terrible. Keep writing, keep dancing, keep playing music, start singing. Say yes. Go outside. Make friends with people somewhere other than a bar stool.
And hug dad. Every single chance you get. Because you won’t get as many more as you’d like. The next time you see him, give him my love too.