I just checked, and I’ve been writing in this blog for a year and a half. When I started, I only had the courage to post recipes. The first one I posted wasn’t even mine! Over time I’ve grown more and more able to write what I feel and hit publish. It’s occurred to me more than once that my regular voice is the only voice I need. I don’t need to write in any way other than what comes naturally to me. This requires a constant flow of confidence in the natural process of life and my small part in it. Some days I have more of this confidence than others.
A few months ago, my husband asked me what I was going to do when all the kids are in school. My youngest will start kindergarten in three years. What followed was a very long fight conversation that involved gallons of tears flowing from my weary, thirty-something eyes. Why all the drama? To spare you the boredom, I’ll summarize:
- I knew that he wanted me to get a job. And not just a working-at-Pottery-Barn part-time job. An actual job.
- I’ve had actual jobs before, really good ones. And no matter how inspired the mission, flexible the schedule, and smart/considerate/all-around-badass the boss, actual jobs leave me feeling only one way: TRAPPED.
- Now that my formerly caged bird is singing as a free woman (except of course for my never-ending duties to my children), I really, really don’t want to go back.
How did my husband take all this? Did my desperate pleas come off as self-centered as they most likely do now? I’m afraid that the answer is most likely yes. I could see his frustration building. Well, he demanded, what did I want to do then?
Why was it so difficult to say that I wanted to write? I don’t know why I am so all around lacking in nerve, but I even have a hard time declaring what I really want to do. As if writing is somehow better than any other job—like I was asking to be queen or something. I have this theory that we should do what we’re drawn to, because surely this pull is our innate knowledge guiding us to our true path in life. But when it comes to myself, I find this so scary for some reason. I’ve always known I wanted to be a writer, and yet I never really pursued it. I’ve always built it up as this unattainable, scary thing, which is kind of ridiculous because plenty of people are writers.
I finally sobbed it out that I wanted to write but I didn’t think I could ever get published, that I could tell even though he never said it that he wanted me to make a ton of money, and that I knew being the sole breadwinner in the family is a horrible burden for him to shoulder all by himself. Then he did that wonderful thing that only he can do, which involves letting me get the shoulder of his shirt all yucky, and getting right to the heart of the matter with his omnipresent objective perspective.
He said that perhaps deep down he had selfishly wanted me to make bushels of money so he can buy the Acura TL that’s out there waiting for him. But really, my doing anything would be OK with him, as long as I’m not living out his nightmare wife scenario: the kids are all in school and I sit on the couch all day eating bonbons and watching the home shopping network, eating myself and spending our family into obesity and poverty, respectively.
Whew! Good thing we got all our fears out. So there it was, I had gotten his approval to focus on writing once the kids were all in school. Let the rejoicing commence! So why was he still eying me warily? Ahhh, my husband knows me too well. It turns out he was doubting my follow through. I’m really good at starting things. Particularly things involving research. But finishing? Mmmm, not so much. So he wanted to know I had a realistic plan in place to make this happen.
But I suck at plans! I set really high expectations for myself and get overwhelmed easily, which just leaves me immobilized. Plus I’m not so good with realistic anything. So I asked for his help. He’s always got a five-year plan going, and amazingly, they end up happening. He really doesn’t believe in directing others, so he didn’t want to make my plan, but I persisted. If he were me, I said, what would his plan be for getting published? He finally conceded: Get published in two years; be paid for it in five. Great, I thought! As impossible as getting published sounds to me, two and five years sound like an eternity. And even the scariest things seem more doable when you have an eternity to work with.
So that’s it, I have a two-year and a five-year plan. Right now I’m focusing on the first part, just getting published. I know writers get rejected a ton of times before getting published, so I figure my two years need to be packed with submissions to have a chance at one acceptance. But at the same time, I usually only write one night a week, on my weekly “night off” from family duties. So I need to be realistic about how much I can actually do. I’ve decided one submission a month should be my goal. The clock started ticking in August, and I’ve submitted two articles so far. (Hooray!)
But all this has been leading up to this: my good friend who has written a book tells me that editors want unpublished material (which I knew), and if something’s on your blog, they consider it to be published (which I didn’t). Apparently this is still the case even if only five people read your blog. Oh dear! I just assumed that I would stick everything I submitted on my blog. If I’m spending all my time and energy writing things to submit to magazines, what will I put on my baby blog? Not that the world would suffer in any way if I ceased to post anything on this thing, but I’ve grown to care for this little guy. If I were to neglect him, that would make me sad.
Another friend told me I should write here about my goals to get published, and although at first I thought no, I couldn’t actually produce a reason why I shouldn’t. So that’s why I’m writing this now. That and because I really don’t know what I’ll be posting here, seeing as how I’ll be reserving anything I ever think I might submit anywhere.
One success I’ve already achieved though—this year I’ve been experimenting with tiny attempts at bravery. One night after a couple of beers, I looked up into the bathroom mirror, my hands dripping mid-wash. Fatigue and alcohol were colluding to make my face even more haggard than it normally looks after a day chasing kids. Stunned at the shadowy, sagging version of myself I saw before me, I couldn’t escape the reality that life was passing me by. “Old woman!” I said out loud, as if I were two people. “When are you going to live the life you want?”
Since then, I’ve been pushing myself to focus on what I really want and what I really think I’m supposed to be doing. If I’m embarrassed to admit something to others or scared to try something new, well, I guess I’ll just have to endure the discomfort and push forward. The risk of failure is always there, which is what I’m really afraid of. But how do I know what failure is? I’m not setting this agenda. I’m just following what my heart tells me. There’s no failure in that. And anyway, when else am I going to do this? The time is now.
© Amy Daniewicz and Beneath the Trees