Half the Whole of It

skitzy writer (1)

I posted a new food debacle on my other site, icantbelieveididthis, in which I confessed to the latest kitchen horror involving meatloaf. Maybe the suspense was too much about how I salvaged this hot mess:

meatloaf 3

Or, perhaps, the blizzard conditions outside kept people inside bored crazy and reduced to scrolling through the internet for anything at all amusing. Whatever, I received a ton more likes from this than most of the Scraps postings concerning all my hand-wringing over writing and the story I’m working on now. Not only is the subject matter on I Can’t Believe This  different but the voice and style is, as well. If I’m honest with myself, these are factors in why my food writing found an audience while my straight writing remains obscure.

What can I say…both writings and blogs are equal halves of the whole of me. Every time I face the blank screen/page it’s like putting me in a paper bag, shaking me up, and be surprised at what tumbles out.

Moral of this story: Lighten up. Enjoy everything I do. Find humor after a day of slogging in the trenches. Not everything I write has to be serious.

Procrastination or Bad Excuses I Use to Justify Not Writing

gypsy-rose-lee-1941-women-at-typewriter

  1. The day-job/annoying boss (don’t get me started)
  2. Financial concerns that tamp down the fantasy of quitting #1
  3. Exhaustion(see #1 above and #4 below)
  4. Deep family concerns (just because children are grown and out of the house doesn’t mean they are not a source of worry, trouble, pain–and joy which means you love to hang out with them and celebrate whatever makes up the joy, mainly that they’re out of the house and we’re away from one another)
  5. The fun/ease of doing anything at all other than staring at a blank computer screen and/or figuring out what the hell I’m really writing about
  6. WHO the hell are these characters bothering me every waking and sleeping hour
  7. The sorry/hard state of the book publishing world, at least in getting any kind of advance and recognition, especially since you’re not very versatile at, say, magazine and essay writing, nor building a HUGE community on social media
  8. Self-aggravation, leading to……
  9. Bouts of deep depression
  10. Obsessive Google searches

Here’s the current procrastination episode: The husband walks into the kitchen while I wait for the teapot to boil.  It’s the weekend, two intense writing days, given  # 1 and #3. The days are just as intense for him–he has a book contract and looming deadline. He mentions that the Authors Guild’s membership fees have skyrocketed and, since I’m no longer bringing any money into the household (#2), I should cancel my membership. True enough–since I’ve stopped writing about food I haven’t contributed any hefty advances/speaking fees. This is because, within the current food/cookbook publishing world, I not only feel I have nothing to say but that I have said everything I wanted to say (#5).  At one time I could’a been a contender; I could’a been somebody and probably could have gone repeating myself, writing the same kind of book over and over again. Instead, I decided to try growing as a writer by working on a series of stories about my teenage friendship with a girl named Clare.* Given the state of the publishing world (#7), the chance of these stories ever being published rests on their acceptance by small literary magazines (I’ve begun to send them out–no response yet).

In any case, I can’t believe what the husband just suggests.  At the very least, Authors Guild hosts my website through which the paltry number of fans and reporters have found me over the years–it’s actually the only remnant of my professional worth (#8 and #9).  I say something to the effect of “Damn, that’s cold” and then list how important membership is to me, the only remnant that I’m a published writer (return to # 8 and #9).  He says he’s sorry–we’ll find the $125 by maybe reducing the grocery bill (#2 again). He’s a good man and rightly feels contrite.

The kettle boils, I make my tea and return to my computer where I spend an hour staring at page 15, in which I am figuring out how Clare talked me into a date with someone who we both found unsuitable (#6). After awhile I click on the internet and google Eleanor of Aquitaine (don’t ask) where I spend the next 25 minutes reading all about her adventurous life in the 13th century (# 10).  I pull myself back to the pages and write three more paragraphs. Finally, I’m in the groove, excited, the world blotched out, totally convinced I’m going to finish this incredibly wonderful story.

The front door opens. “Hey, Ma,” a son bellows from below. I keep typing, hoping he’ll go into the kitchen and stare into the refrigerator for a while.  He accomplishes this faster than I want and pounds upstairs.  If he turns right, he’s in my husband’s study and I’m safe. Instead he tuns left, as always, and collapses into the fragile chair beside my desk, commencing a heartbreaking lament: Why are women so difficult? Why would his girlfriend accuse him of not communicating?

I manage to type a few more words.

“I think she’s going to break up with me.” He puts his head in his hands  and I arrive at #4.

One more reason:

#11–writing a blog post about procrastinating.

He eventually leaves and I return to find where I left Clare and me:–Once more unto the breach: one more day on the fucking river (a private joke between himself and me I’ll explain another time).  I pick up where I left off and begin to write.

*I used to publish the Clare stories on Wattpad but I recently took them down–turns out a bunch of the better literary magazines consider stories on sites such as Wattpad and even you’re own website are already published, even if maybe 10 people have read them. #7 strikes again! Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, what the hell?!

Getting It Together

tatoo girl

This is the cover of the Clare and I collection on wattpad.com.

Publishing the book on-line has been a pain in the neck. I love the opportunity and the possibilities digital printing offers but, for each site I’m on, there’s a whole new layer of technical capabilities/directions/rules/kinks.  There’s probably very easy ways to do the things I want to do in these stories (see post below where I bitch about it).  I’m just not finding things as intuitive as I personally, in my very stubborn idiotic way, think they should.

All of which is to say–publishing is never easy.

I read an obit recently of a mystery writer who for most of his life had incredible success–big publishers, huge following, awards, etc. Fifteen years ago, he started to branch out, wrote scripts for his books, thinking they’d be a breeze to sell to some movie producer: didn’t happen. Meanwhile, he decided he was going to write something other than  mystery novels–no one bought them.  He never published again.  He shot himself.

There’s a lesson here to remember. I suspect I may never be commercially published again. I’ll never make my long-suffering agent ecstatic, never get a contract, another advance, an editor who loves me, a galley to proof,  the weight of a physical book in my hands, the readings and fan letters. For a length of time, these things were the measure of my worth and then, like any other job, something happened. Things changed. Passed me by.  I wasn’t able to figure out what was wrong.  Maybe it couldn’t be figured out. It just was, and everything I did before appeared to be a mirage, at best a fluke.

I know what that guy was going through.

There were at least two times when I either symbolically (i.e. threw/burned manuscripts) or in reality (drinking; a lot of pills; walking into the ocean off Brighton Beach)  was going the way the mystery writer went.  The first time was after eleven long years where I couldn’t for the life of me get published–rejection letters; phone slamming down; editorial laughter abound concerning nearly everything I sent out into the world.  The second was a year after finishing up my last book, with three well received books before it.

Since then I’ve sent handfuls of proposals to my agent and talked up a lot of ideas with friends. Nothing panned out and another darkness was always hovering two inches away.  There was nothing artistically romantic about all this. My writing was pretty much all I hung my hat on. Family, friends, all of the rest of life didn’t matter at all–useless to them, useless in the world, a walking illustration of a foolish dud. I was coming up against what we all come up against–the limits of our youthful beliefs and the discovery of what we will, or will not, endure.  Eventually the good husband kicked me  to someone who knew what to do, who gave me the drugs I faithfully take every morning. It took six wobbly months for my head to clear and begin to find a worth beyond a book with my name on it.

All of which leads to Clare and her friend. The stories are coming at a pace of once a month, including obsessive polishing, although my husband says they need more proof reading, too. There’s no vanity in putting them out.  For all the hard work I’m putting into them, they could all suck, but perhaps they don’t,  even though the average number of readers hangs around 20.  About That Night, though,  got up to 35–but there’s graphic sex and a suggestion of incest in that one, which always helps. I think maybe my sister may briefly check in but I’m pretty sure my agent or any editors haven’t.

What the hell, though.   The girls are out there.  Last week, I even decided I’m going to start sending them out to magazines of all kinds. I haven’t received rejection letters in a while so this should be fun. The difference is, they won’t matter.

And you never know.  It’s better than the alternative silence.

Just for fun, here are the stories.

The Fashion Of the Day

1950s-felt-party-halter-dress-size-extra-small_5

 

Swans

swim rope

Parallel Dilemmas: The Things We Have to Do to Get Out of Here

_Math-Equations1.large

About That Night

alone girl

Moms At Rest

table glass