No Excuses. Just Write.

I just spent a week in Hawaii, and it made me realize something:

I’m angry. Have been for a while. I don’t want to be anymore.

I have been writing in the hope of being traditionally published for four years, this October. I remember the moment with great clarity that I decided to make that my goal. And, in retrospect, that may have been my first mistake.

I was sitting on my stoop in Brooklyn, and I decided to discontinue the blog I’d started when we moved to New York City in favor of creating a writing-centered blog to begin building my author platform. I didn’t even have a finished draft yet, and already I was plotting my future as an author. Already, I was thinking about what kind of brand I wanted to create. Already, I was setting myself up for heartache.

This post will be inspirational. I’ll get to that part in a minute.

I did finish a draft. And then I revised. And revised. And revised. And every time I did, I wanted it to be the last time. I wanted someone to tell me yes, this book is no longer a red hot mess. I got a lot of feedback. That manuscript helped me make a lot of writer friends and industry connections because it was promising, but it was never quite right.

I got tired of revising it and around that time I finished my shiny new idea. I revised. I revised again. I sent it to readers and got fantastic feedback. I did a revise and resubmit with an agent. The resubmit went well, all signs pointed to Yes, and then instead nothing at all happened. The agent fell off the face of the planet. I never heard from her again.

Whether it was right or not, I got angry. Yes, I did the proper thing and acted cool. I told myself this was not my fault. I told myself this was just business. I force fed every line of positive energy bullshit I could down my throat. I faked a positive attitude. I began to query more widely. I got a lot of requests, fast, and there were a couple of weeks there in January where I was flying high.

But the Anger was still there. It had a higher threshold for patience than I did. As the months of waiting dragged on, it festered. It seeped into my heart and mind and creative force. I sat down to write, anything, and Anger distracted me with self-pity. I griped about the Industry, and Anger became more powerful in my disgust. I saw certain books become successful, books I read and didn’t love, didn’t like, didn’t get. I struggled to read at all. Agents requested, agents rejected, agents didn’t get back to me. I decided Agents could go fuck themselves.

I’m a bit of a potty-mouth. Anger made that worse.

I kept having accidents and injuring myself, and Anger managed to make even those about my failure as a writer. Because since I wanted to be published, since I had decided that publishing was my goal, the fact that I wasn’t yet meant my writing was bad. It meant I was clearly on the wrong path, and I needed to realize it. It meant my talent, my love of story, my imagination, was substandard. It wasn’t enough to know what I loved and get to do it — I needed to succeed. I needed to win. I should just give up.

This wasn’t happening without my knowledge. I am not a victim. Anger became my ally. It made me feel validated in my procrastination, or lack of perseverance with the manuscripts I had started, or querying some more, or deciding anything, ever about my career.

The week before I left for Hawaii I started a new project. Well, a reimagining of that first novel. The one I gave up on. The one I wrote because I wanted to get published. As the words poured onto the page, I forgot to be angry. I forgot to feel sorry for myself, or to hate the agents that said no or said nothing, I forgot everything because the words were more important, the voice was all that mattered. It was a small victory against Anger, and it was the first step in breaking that alliance.

On the way to Hawaii I was scrolling through my Twitter feed and saw another writer announce they had landed an agent. And I should have been happy for them — I was happy for them, really, deep down — except Anger reminded me of all the reasons I shouldn’t be. Of all that I deserved and hadn’t received, of all the wrongness. I shut my Twitter feed and felt tears well in my eyes. I was tired of being angry. It was making this hard thing harder, and in order to win, I would need to let it go. And winning would have to become something else. And everything would have to change.

This realization followed me to the Islands, where I looked out over the ocean and asked for clarity.

The real problem was me. And the only person I was hurting, the only successful victim in my alliance with Anger against the publishing industry, was me and my writing. Me and the thing that I love.

The clarity I asked for, I received. The Islands operate on a different wavelength than the rest of the world. They move at a different rhythm. I move dangerously fast. I hate waiting. I see time as a commodity I will never have enough of. I want everything. I want to be everything. I am pulled in a million directions by me and no one else because I am afraid of missing it. I am afraid of not doing all the things I am supposed to do.

Ultimately, I, not Anger, am my own worst enemy. And I don’t know if that will ever really change, but I do know that I have to forgive myself for not meeting that goal yet. I have to forgive publishing, and Agents, for not doing things the way I want them to. I have to forgive my writing for still being a work in progress. I will only have me to blame if I let Anger win instead of Perseverance.

In the end, the only thing we have power over, no matter what we’re trying for, is ourselves and our attitude. So, no excuses. Just write. And then rewrite. And then start again. You are never finished, but you are good enough in your unfinished state.

feet in water

Put my Patella Back

This year so far I have…

Busted up my face falling down a ladder

Been in a fender bender

And most recently, dislocated my kneecap. And it’s April.

That’s not counting the time my dog was attacked and nearly died. Or my husband was sick with strep throat so bad his tonsils swelled and his throat closed up. Or the bouts with hopelessness as a result of my seemingly never-ending stay in publishing limbo.

But back to my kneecap.

I’m going to warn you ahead of time, the story of how it happened is pretty lame. (I am working up a draft of a more interesting tale, for cocktail parties and public appearances. I’ll trust you guys not to give me away.)

I was sitting at Stephanie’s (my YouTube co-pilot and sister) kitchen table yesterday afternoon having an evil-genius planning session for our videos. We’d brought the dogs over since we were going to be gone most of the evening.

James, the dog I previously mentioned that nearly died earlier this year, got out somehow and was wandering around outside Stephanie’s kitchen window. He’s prone to making bad decisions, and so Stephanie went out to get him. Then, when he wasn’t coming to her, I jumped up to go help.

And that’s when I dislocated my kneecap. Was I chasing the dog? Nope. Did I fall down some stairs? You’d think, with my history, that was the case.

No, I hit my knee on the table leg.

That’s it.

That’s the whole story.

emma

I slammed to the ground with a guttural scream. The kind women in labor make in  movies. I couldn’t move my leg without a blinding pain shooting through my entire body and making we wish for oblivion. But, of course, I didn’t pass out. No, not me. I stayed lucid and snarky through the entire ordeal.

I wanted to call 911.

My husband insisted we not because, despite my assertions, I was not dying.

Stephanie immediately called my mom because she is smart. Mom is always who you call in this type of situation. I am sure it’s the same with your mom, if not, you can always borrow mine for a small security deposit and the rights to your first-born.

Then we had to wait. My husband held my leg in place and kept me calm and sensible. He is my raven-headed superhero. “If only Claire Beauchamp were here, she’d know what to do,” he said. Sigh. My Soulmate.

Mom arrived, with my Asgardian-like brother, Isaac and his weight-lifting friend, Joshua and they hatched a plan to move me. I couldn’t actually move, so this plan involved strapping my legs together with a belt (which was accompanied by more movie labor screaming and maybe a few curse words and requests that Jesus take the wheel), rolling me without actually turning me over onto a sheet, pulling me like furniture across the floor and then securing me on a crib-base board as a make-shift gurney.

Fast thinkers, those guys. I was doing Lamaze breathing at this point. So I had found a freckle to focus all my energy on and was trying to get to my happy place.

They loaded me in the car and we began the way-too-bumpy ride to the ER.

Upon arrival we were told the place was packed. They wanted to put me in a wheelchair to which I responded, “If you shoot me with meds first, then sure. Otherwise get the hell away from me with that, dude.”

The second ER nurse they sent out, while they were trying to get a stretcher for me, asked me what was going on.

“I’m dying,” I told him. “Can’t you tell?”

“You’re in pain, which is how I know you’re not dying,” he replied, smiling.

I recognized the other nurse as a friend of a friend and then we were gold. If they didn’t treat me well, I’d tattle on them. Or, maybe it was the fact that they had to treat me right away because I couldn’t sit up. I don’t know, it went pretty fast after that.

They wheeled me into the hospital while I chagrined about my lame story, and they offered some more exciting alternatives.

Then my dad showed up and started to pray before he even got inside my room. Once he saw my knee, all whompy and turned on its side, he nearly passed out. Well, he couldn’t stay. So he and Mom left for the mall and some much needed retail therapy. My injury was giving him heart palpitations.

Vitals were taken. Blood was drawn. IV went in.

“Usually, when they do the X-ray, the patella just pops back in on its own,” the RN said as she looked at my knee. “We’ll get you some morphine before we try to move you though.”

I had never had morphine before, and if I’m honest, I wasn’t really excited about it. I kept having visions of the Morphlings in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and really didn’t want my skin to look like that.

I thought a lot about Jamie Fraser and his dislocated shoulder. This was therapeutic in many ways.

The lady with the drugs was next. She told me common side affects of Morphine are feeling flushed all over and a heaviness in your chest. That sounded like something that would give me a panic attack, so I told her, just in case.

“I have panic attacks sometimes, mostly when I’m getting dental work.” Though, it’s mainly the result of feeling trapped that triggers it.

“Honey, there are no dentists here, you will be fine,” my husband, the pragmatist, said.

She laughed and administered the category C opioid. I was not fond of it at first, and then, I imagine as a result of the drug, I didn’t care that I wasn’t fond of it. Then I started crying and wanted to take a nap, neither of which was helpful to anyone.

And when the X-ray tech came in, she shifted me over on my back and my kneecap promptly popped back into place.

“Usually, once the drugs are administered and people’s muscles relax, it just moves on it’s own,” she added, as an extra explanation.

“Honey,” I said to my husband, not the technician. “This is why Claire gave Jamie the whisky.”

My dad came back about 30 minutes later, right around the time I was starting to feel bored and needed a distraction. He was waving a bag with a cute outfit that he’d bought me (not on sale) in an attempt to deal with his anxiety. The RN came in to check on me and he jumped in.

“She’s my only daughter—”

“I’m thirty years old now—” I interjected.

“She pushes me over the edge,” he ignored me.

The RN looked at me. “But she’s so pretty.”

“And that makes it worse,” he paused to lift the outfit up so she can see. “I bought her this.”

“Oh, it’s nice. I’m just going to get the doctor,” she smirked as she left.

“I think the drugs have warn off,” I said. “When will they let me leave?”

**

I’m fine now. Mostly. They want the knee immobilized for a few days, and they are making me use crutches, and I am not pleased about any of it. But it’s okay, and it’s a good story, and that’s something to be thankful for in my world.

I get knocked down a lot. I get sidetracked and slammed, and usually it results in bruises that fade with time. When this kind of thing happens, my response is to roll with it. You can’t allow yourself to feel defeated, you can’t entertain your anger or play into pity. If you do, you run the risk of actually being defeated. And that is exactly what the Goblins on your path are hoping for.

Don’t let the Goblins win.