Write My Way Out

My hands are shaking as I type this. I have not blogged since July. I have not written anything substantial since September.

Maybe that's what is wrong with me. 

So here I am.
Showing up. 
Doing the thing that I feel like I've forgotten how to do. 
I'm going to try to write my way out of this funk. 

2016 has not been my best year. And I'll go ahead and name the elephant in the room (no pun intended)--the Election caused much of the suckage. Politics hijacked the year, and it occupied my head-space. I've never been one to pay attention to politics, but 2016 was like a train wreck from which I couldn't look away. I spent most of my free time falling down the black hole of the internet--reading articles and researching issues. And now that the election is over, I'm WOKE. It's hard to unknow things. So for the past month,  I've tried to regain a balance of being informed while not letting it consume my thoughts. Even though it's tempting, I don't want to go back into my cocoon of blissful ignorance. It's a tricky road to tread. 

Not only has politics been hard to overcome, but my struggle with anxiety amped up again this year. (Connection? Probably so.) Even after having BE STILL tattooed on my wrist. Even after I thought I'd wrestled so many of the demons of my 30s. Nope. The anxiety demon is back. As I've tried to process the causes for this, I realize that I've let some of my good habits--my coping strategies--slide. I've stopped exercising. I'm not writing. 

And quite frankly, I'm dealing with some disappointment. 

Much of that disappointment stems from the fact that I'm processing failure, which is something I'm not well-acquainted with. I don't say that to sound arrogant. I see my lack of  experience with failure as a flaw because this means that I have not taken many risks in my life; I've meticulously picked things that I know I'm good at and stuck with them. I know my lane, and I've stayed in it. 

This way of living served me well for forty-one years, until now, when I veered way out of my comfort zone to pursue a dream. 

Many of you know that I spent three years writing a novel, and hope of publication fueled my journey. It's intoxicating to get high on hope; hope can make you do crazy things--like follow a lifelong dream. My dear Emily D. was right--Hope IS the thing with feathers that perches in my soul. As I was writing, and editing, and rewriting, and editing, and revising, and editing--when I felt like I couldn't press on--I felt the lift--the hope--like hummingbird wings inside my heart. 

Quote, Emily Dickinson, Hope is the thing with feathers, chalkboard, printable,  made in publisher:


That lift of my spirit.
HOPE.  

But it's not there anymore. 
Just heaviness. 

2016 was the year I sent my book--my dream--into the world of publication. I queried fifty agents. With each press of the send button, my little wings of hope fluttered--maybe this is the one. My head said, "You will probably get rejected..." But my heart held fast to the hope. Five agents asked for more pages, and three requested my full manuscript--which is HUGE and made my hope grow from a hummingbird into a swan.  

As the rejections came trickling in throughout this year, I've dug deep and tried to hold on to the hope. "This does not mean you are a bad writer. This does not mean you need to give up on the dream." This became my mantra--my Force--to try to keep going. I started writing a second book over the summer because I realized that the first one would probably not see the light of publication--yet.  I wrote 20,000 hard-found words, and then I lost my focus.

But honestly, I didn't just lose my focus.
Anxiety, Fear, Failure, Doubt, Despair--
This swirl of negativity.
This "hurricane in my brain." (Thank you, Hamilton Mixtape).
It overtook me.
I lost my hope.

So I've been plodding through the past few months--trying to reconcile the fact that I'm not writing much. No. Scratch that. I'm not writing at all. I am the Queen of Excuses; you need justification? Come sit by me for a spell, so I explained it all away--
Too busy.
Too tired.
Too stressed.
Too blah, blah, blah.

And then something unexpected happened. A few days shy of the end of 2016--I got my 50th rejection-- one I had been waiting for since June, from an agent who read my entire novel. She didn't have horrible things to say. She said that I had a strong voice and a compelling story that made her cry several times, which I think is a good sign. But she had some legitimate reservations and kindly explained why she was passing on my book. 

In reality, this should have made my little hope bird curl up and die.
I admit that it felt like that for a little while.
But then I felt something deep in my soul.
A tiny flutter.
I felt it.
The lift.
HOPE.

Because this is not the way my dream ends. 

So here I am with fifty rejections--every one of them weighing me down to reality--that maybe this dream will never take flight. But then I feel the flutter that says, "You need to keep writing. It's what you do. It's who you are." But how do I fly with weighted wings? That's what I've got to figure out. 

 That's why I'm here. Trying to write my way out. Or maybe back. 

Not only has writing been a struggle, but 2016 has been a dry season in my reading life, too. I've had a difficult time focusing; few books reached out and grabbed my soul, which scared me because books re-calibrate my heart and make me feel more compassionate and connected to people around me. But I felt numb while reading. Stories stopped resonating. I didn't climb into as many characters' shoes and walk around in them. 

And then I read THE SERPENT KING over Christmas break. 

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I cried more reading this book than I have any other in a long time. It's a brutiful story--both brutal and beautiful--of the friendship of three quirky teens growing up in a small Tennessee town. 

I wept. 
I sobbed. 
And it felt so good. 

I think my tears fell out of relief that a book could move me that way. 
Again. 
That flutter of hope. 

And then I read this quote on page 327: 

Image result for quotes from the Serpent King


 These are the words I'm taking with me into the new year.

Writing is my painful, brave, beautiful thing. Writing is how I make sense of the world. It feels rusty, but my writer brain searches for connections, threads to weave together to make meaning out of life.

And here is how I see this all coming together...

2016 is a flickering glow of embers, but it's still taking. I know that years aren't personified as the Grim Reaper, but this year feels different. So many creative, talented, amazing souls have died this year. Three just this week--the week after Christmas--George Michael, Carrie Fisher, and Debbie Reynolds. 

The three things that I keep coming back to--the three things that I want to carry into 2017--are three gifts that these amazing icons left for us. 

FAITH. 
HOPE. 
JOY. 

George Michael reminded us that "We gotta have FAITH..."



Carrie Fisher reminded us about the importance of "HOPE." 



And watching Debbie Reynolds perform in SINGIN' IN THE RAIN is JOY personified. 


There's no denying that 2016 was a rough year for many of us. I know we aren't all writing books, but we all have dreams tucked inside of our hearts. And dreams need to be nurtured or they will wither and die. That's what I've learned this year. 2016 took enough. I won't let it steal my dream, too.

My prayer for all of us in the New Year is that we will...

Do Painful, Brave, Beautiful things.

Keep the Faith. 
Don't lose Hope.
Find our Joy.

Pursue our Dreams. 

I carry these with me into 2017. 

I hope that you will, too. 








Comments

  1. Bawling my eyes out reading this. Thank you so much for your words.

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  2. Earlier this year, I was reading a few books about traumatic child stress and its now-proven harmful effects on the health and well-being of those children as adults. I have journals dating back to 1984, and although I always knew that I loved documenting and reflecting on life in writing, I did not become acutely aware of how the practice was directly correlated to my well-being until I stopped doing it regularly. I've picked it back up, however erratically, the past few years, but I plan to become more disciplined with it in 2017. I have a deep admiration for creators who submit their work for assessment/judgment by others. It's vein-cutting at its most agonizing. Onward!

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  3. Amazing prayer for 2017! As I reread your blog at least ten times, I kept thinking how a preachers sermon is exactly what you needed to hear. We both know that God helped the preacher write his sermon for that day. Your words preacher write reacher giving a sermon that was written just for me. We both know that God helped the preacher write the words for his sermon. I agree that 2016 has been rough year for many people besides you and I. Your blog gave me hope as I prepare to welcome 2017. It also reminds me that even when we are struggling and we are unable to make sense of the sad things going on in the world lately. That God is always in control and that he will never forsake us. I look forward to reading your future posts. I have no doubts that this new post will touch many hearts. Thanks so much for giving me hope and reminding me that God is still in control no matter what happens in our personal lives and in the world.

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  4. Beautifully said. As always. Hope we all have an amazing 2017!

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  5. Wow!! I recognize your words, because I have felt them in my soul. Keep writing. Your faith, hope, and joy will help us!!

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