I have a confession to make.
You know that book I wrote? The one that consumed all my time and attention for a year? The one that I scribbled scenes for in committee meetings and babbled nonstop about over drinks at the bar every weekend? The one that filled me such inexplicable pride when I wrote “The End” the Christmas before you got sick? The one that actually had me teaching myself how to query agents and going to writer’s conferences and learning about self-publishing?
Mom, I’ve done absolute jack shit with it since you went away. If I’m being completely honest – long before that. I barely touched it the entire time you were sick.
I could give you a million excuses.
Time. But time was always a struggle with the demands of my job, and it didn’t stop me back then.
Heartsickness. I miss you, and some days just doing what I need to do to be a functioning adult with a day job exhausts me. But let’s face it – we both know writing is a healing tool for me, so that one doesn’t fly.
I’m at the hard part. Writing my story was FUN. So freaking much fun. Editing is not. Editing is more like doing math, and I always hated using that part of my brain. But every writer has to suck that up at some point if they ever want their work to be more than something that takes up space on their hard drive.
I’m afraid of rejection. Publishing is scary. As long as I don’t get to the point where the book is truly ready to publish, I don’t have to face the possibility that I suck. But I knew that going in too.
To each and every one of those points, you’d tell me to stick it up my ass. You were always good at pointing out when someone was making excuses rather than diving in and taking a challenge.
The truth is, I think my biggest block at the moment is not having you. I wrote this book, but you were almost as much a part of the process as I was. I shared bits and pieces with many friends, but you were the one and only person who knew just about everything. You read the most excerpts. You knew when I had a good writing day and when I was in a slump. You fell in love with my main character just like I did. Your thoughts helped me keep him and many of the other characters real … or as real as they were going to be given my topic.
You made me believe I could do it. You cheered me on and were so happy for me when I was in that place that writers go when a story has grabbed them by the imaginary balls and won’t let go. You were with me through the manic joy of the storytelling process. You laughed with me and commiserated with me when I was struggling.
You were a reader your entire life. I owe you my love of the written word. We always fell in love with the same books. So when I tackled writing my own, my guiding principle was “if Mom had this book in her hand, would it be so good she couldn’t put it down?”
I so wanted you and I to go through it going out into the world together. I needed you there if it failed, but more importantly, I WANTED you there if it succeeded. In my wildest dreams, it paid off all our debts and our entire family lived happily ever after. Maybe reality would have been more along the lines of all our friends bought a copy and we made enough money for a nice dinner somewhere. That would have been OK too.
But the idea that you wouldn’t be here when the book went out into the world? That never crossed my mind when I was writing it. It was unimaginable. And now it just doesn’t seem right.
The truth is, there is a part of me I try not to acknowledge that is beating the shit out of myself for that. I started too late. I didn’t write fast enough. If only. If only. If only.
All those what ifs have squashed my determination. The urge to work on the book comes now and then, in tiny spurts that fizzle out as soon as I remember something I need to do for work or notice that the kitchen could use a good cleaning.
The part of me that says that since I didn’t “get er done” in time for you to see the doing I shouldn’t let myself experience publishing and succeeding or failing without you has been winning. I don’t want to fail without you here to hold my hand. I don’t want to succeed without you here to say “that’s my daughter. Now take your Momma to a tropical island.”
I’m not writing this just to whine to you. I really do need one of your “suck it up” tirades more than ever, but since you can’t give me one I wouldn’t put you through just listening to me bitch and moan.
See, I have a friend who started writing a book.
He’s had this great story idea stewing in his brain for a while. It is the kind of story that you and I always loved to read. He’s got quirky characters and a unique plot line and let’s just say this shit could be really, really good.
The thing is, unlike me, he is not someone who always dreamed of being a writer. He mulled the possibility over as a potential retirement hobby down the road, but he’s not there yet. He was never one of those people who felt compelled to write or go crazy, like I am. But he got bit by a damn good story bug, and it has him totally infected.
I have a lot of writer friends, but most of them are far away and we just communicate electronically. We sought each other out because we were looking to connect with other writers. Otherwise, we’d never have known one another.
There is just something different about seeing a friend you met for completely different reasons (in this case, work) catch the writing bug and dive in headfirst.
He comes to me with the fledgling first chapters. We talk about story lines and plot twists. We discuss what is enough description and what is too much. We envision what his characters look like. He can’t wait to go home and start writing again.
And the whole time, he freakin’ GLOWS. I’ve always heard that pregnant women glow. Perhaps they do. But a writer in the throes of a good story coming to life? Those crazy bastards are bright purple neon, baby.
I know, because I used to be one. I used to blind myself in the mirror with that shit.
And when I see the way he looks when I’m reading a chapter or when we’re talking about his book, I see a ghost. The ghost of that girl.
In a way, it feels a bit like how we were when I was writing my book. Only he’s me, and I’m in your role. Nothing I’ve tried since you left has made that part of me want to wake up until now. But over the last few days, I’ve felt her coming back to life. She’s yawning and stretching and has a long way to go to get her energy back. She probably has a bit of amnesia. But she’s still there.
I still don’t want to do it without you. But somehow, I think this experience is helping me get the strength to do that. Not the strength to finish the editing and go through the crazy train of publication. I know I’ve got the balls for that, when I’m ready. I’m talking about the strength to forgive myself for not doing it while you were here, so that I can.
A year ago in October, I was watching you start a horrible journey that we would all walk with you, until you had to turn onto a path that was only wide enough for you to go alone. This October, I am watching a friend start a wonderful, amazing journey that I took myself a few years back, and it is bringing me joy and a desire to fuel my own tank and at least start taking a few day trips.
I have to believe you have a hand in that.
Love you Mom. Like a dog.