I’ve been writing every day, working on a book manuscript. Although I’ve started innumerable manuscripts, the majority of them have fallen by the wayside. I could easily say that life was just too busy, too hectic, and got in the way, distracting me from ever finishing. That isn’t quite true. The problem goes a bit deeper and resides within my own psyche. I was just plain scared, so I let life step in and distract me away from this dream I have carried within me for over half of my existence.
I have published some poetry in small and large presses. One poem became the anchor piece for an anthology that was later turned into a set of tape cassettes and then was nominated for a Grammy Award (you can find that rather lengthy story here – http://intuitivepaths.wordpress.com/2011/02/28/one-poets-15-minutes/).
I’ve published prose, having my own column in a monthly magazine for about three years. I’ve put together and published chapbooks for other writers, and several filled with my own work. So, what’s the big deal? Why do I have so many beginnings, but nothing to show for all of those good intentions?
Fear and plain old anxiety. It is so much simpler to write short pieces and post them here. If I make mistakes, I can easily correct them. But a printed book is just that: a printed book. No room for errors to be corrected. It stands or falls on its own. When it comes to writing I am quite methodical about the process: checking it over and over again. Yet, I found when creating those small hand-made chapbooks, that no matter how many times I reread and went over the contents, once printed, there was at least one or two small errors (typos or misspellings of one sort or another) in most of them.
And the anchor piece for that anthology and Grammy Nomination? Yup, one wrong word choice which no one, including myself, ever noticed. Except for a woman who had some sort of personal conflict with me. She made it her mission to see that I was dressed down for such a (profoundly irresponsible piece of carelessness that needed to be thrown in the garbage). Coming into my public work place to let me know that. I’m fairly certain she would have really enjoyed it far more had there been a bigger audience.
There is an old saying about when you stick your head up above the crowd, someone is definitely going to take a shot at it. I’m fairly certain that didn’t happen to most of those magazine articles. If it did, one could always blame the magazine’s printing process, right?
I suppose I could do the same thing for this book I’m working on, except that it will be a self-published reality. A print on demand proposition. So, the errors will all be mine.
I know I can quiet most of that constant static by simply reminding myself that I am only a human being. Human beings are not perfect, and thus, they do not usually produce perfection. They can and do come quite close at times, but only on rare occasions. Mostly defined as such by someone other than the artist or author herself. I also know, there will always be someone out there with a need to point a finger, and make sure I understand that I have sinned (original definition for the word sin is to miss the mark). So, the best I can hope for is that I might come close to perfection, while knowing that is most likely impossible. And if I’m honest, that’s good enough for me.
Which brings me to the deeper aspect of my fear and anxiety dilemma. Will anyone be harmed by what it is I am writing? It’s poetry. I most often write personal or confessional type poetry. We are told that we can not write about something we do not know. Even when we write fiction, or tell about someone else’s experience, we must come from what we know and we know what we have experienced. We may have theories, but those are also developed on what we know and believe about how things work.
When I was in my senior year in college I was directed to create a senior thesis for my degree in English with a writing concentration. I and my adviser knew that would be at least fifty pages of my poetry. When it was finally finished, I was surprised at how few errors my adviser found in it. I let my mother read it (she’d been asking to see something of my poetry for a couple of years). Before I gave her the manuscript, I removed a few of the pieces, knowing they might upset or hurt her feelings. She promptly took it to her room and read it from beginning to end. Then brought it back and handed it to me saying, “This is not like the poetry I am used to reading.”
I explained that was because she didn’t usually read poetry other than on greeting cards, or in the family section of the local newspaper. She agreed, then paused for a moment and asked, “Why do you write so much about yourself?” I took some time and tried to explain what personal or confessional poetry was all about. She took a step back, gave me a small smile and said, “Well, when you get really good at this stuff, maybe you can find something else to write about?” End of discussion.
I sent a copy of everything I published to my mother, including every copy of the small writer’s zine I published until my computer crashed and I couldn’t afford a new one. She kept the calendar created from the above mentioned anthology hanging on her wall, long after it was out of date. When she passed away, four years ago, my sisters found a drawer full of all of those things and gave them back to me. She also kept every art gift I gave her. A young friend who got very close to my mother, told me that Mom had poured over every word I had ever written and often discussed it with her, seeking to know if she understood it correctly. Perhaps that is why my sisters are fond of saying that Mom saved all the big questions for me? Including the one she asked in our last and final conversation, “Maybe it’s time to give up, now?”
I don’t know the answers to all of that. I do know it’s time to be writing this book. So, each day, I get up, wash my face, brush my teeth, comb my hair, and sit down to write for two and a half to four hours. I do it because it is my deepest dream. It is time I got past all my personal ‘willies’ and get it finished. If my own mother found, in my words, a person she could trust enough to ask those big questions, then I am the only person who can write this book.
When I stop writing for the day, I turn to something that will calm and relax me. That usually means coloring or working with my templates. Last night, I worked a bit more with that doodle I posted about recently and found some things I really really like.