Send in the Publishing Kit

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I am enough.

A few weeks ago, I totally thought I believed this about myself. I mean, hello, I’ll make a fart joke in some pretty inappropriate places. (Years ago at a funeral, guys. SORRY NOT ANYTHING BUT SORRY.) That kind of thing takes confidence.

But, I realized something the other day; when it comes to writing, I’m still petrified.

Something you need to know before we go back in time: My parents give cool gifts. They’re usually things that I’ve never thought to ask for, but they’re always a reflection on how much they know me. It’s all very Leslie Knope.

When I was ten or eleven, the amazing gift was a publishing kit.

I was supposed to write a story on this special paper, send it off to the company, and wait for it to come back as a book, with binding and everything. Totally awesome gift, right?

I thought it was the coolest thing in the world. At the time, I was living off the writing-glory fumes of a picture book, “Man in the Clouds,” that I had written at age seven. This felt like my chance to make a comeback.

I was so excited about it. I wrote fifteenish story options to consider for “publication.”

But… I never sent in that kit.

I felt like none of the stories were “good enough.” I felt like they were all unworthy, and I didn’t want to waste my super-cool gift on a story that wasn’t good enough.

And fifteen years later, it’s still unused.

How freaking sad is that? Sad enough that I might be crying a little bit right now.

I’m crying because here’s what I want to say to that kid: Little girl, you’re being dumb. How could you think that they’re not good enough?  I get that they might be Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter FanFiction (after all, Orlando Bloom’s portrayal of Legolas was the love of your life), but just go for it. Your dreams are good enough. You’re good enough.

This reminds me of My Mad Fat Diary. Have you seen My Mad Fat Diary? If not, put it at the top of the never-ending list of things to watch. At the end of season two, there’s this scene where Rae realizes that she would never say all the crap she says to herself now to a version of herself ten years ago. It’s profound and emotional and holy cow does it resonate. How I talk to the ten-year-old writing fanfic? That should be how I talk to myself now, right? So, why don’t I?

I found the publishing kit a couple of months ago, while cleaning. It was under my bed with other things I never use like old cello music. #humblebrag  And when I saw it, I thought, “Thank goodness I don’t do that anymore. Thank goodness I believe in myself now.”

But then, I realized that I’ve been leaving publishing kits unfinished my entire life. I’ve been saying things like “it’s not quite good enough,” “it’s not quite there,” “maybe the next story” for forever.

But a few times, I’ve been brave. There have been moments—incredible moments!—when I allowed myself to think my writing was enough, and amazing things happened: A VFW writing award at eight (yeah, I went there)! Teachers telling me I could be a writer! Two MFA acceptance letters! An interview for Conan! An interview with John Green! An associate producer! The FAC! This freaking blog!

Cool stuff happens when I say, “Look, self-doubt, I can’t play with you anymore. You’re pretty uncool, and I actually am good enough. Nice try.”

And the cool stuff is cool, even among the plethora of rejection letters. The cool stuff is worth the rejection. Heck, sometimes the cool stuff is the rejection.

So, I guess what I’m trying to say is that even when I haven’t read all that much lately, even when I didn’t write every day from age five, even when I am too dumb, too fat, too poor—I am enough. All that other crap is just crap trying to keep me down. No more. I’m going to let my light shine LIKE THE DEMIGOD FROM CAMP HALF-BLOOD THAT I AM!

(Warning: My confidence may have gone too far.)

(Confession: I once made a Facebook account for Perseus Jackson… Then I made him my Facebook boyfriend.)

It’s not just about saying that I believe in myself anymore. It’s about acting on it too.

So, in the next month-ish, I’m going to send this manuscript out: a real, all-or-nothing effort.

I might fall flat on my ass.

I will surely be rejected. Multiple times.

People might hate it and by some warped extension, think less of me.

BUT I’M DOING IT ANYWAY.

I know this might not sound like a lot. I’ve got friends who have been doing this (in full-force) for YEARS.

But I’m not going to let how it sounds belittle it in my mind. Not anymore.

I’m going for it, even when I don’t feel ready or smart or accomplished. And I guess I’m saying this because I hope you’re going for it too. Whatever your dream is. It’s time.

Fill the pages. Send in the publishing kit. Do it all over again. It’s enough.

(Editor’s Note (from Hilary, let’s get real): I almost didn’t publish this post because I thought it was choppy and confusing, and then I was like HILARY, YOU’RE DOING IT AGAIN!!!!)

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Writing Blackouts

My foot

Last night I went looking through the documents on my computer. To be perfectly honest, I was looking for something I could pass as a blog post. I’m trying to blog more, and apparently I thought the best way to do that was to find something already written. Har har har har

I have a collection of essays on my computer. They’re just for me, and I usually don’t reread them because they’re of an embarrassing nature. They’re letters I’ll never send or angry thoughts or bad songs, and they’re always passionate. That’s the thing about these essays: they’re little collections of those rare late nights when I decided to get up and write for thirty minutes instead of turning on TV.

So I was looking through these documents to see if there was something I could edit and post on my blog to pass as a fresh new thought, and instead, I found something very interesting. In the recesses of my computer, I discovered a very early, incomplete draft of a novel. Here’s the kicker: I have almost no memory of writing it.

I remember having the idea, though I can’t recall what the actual idea was other than a mid to high fantasy, but I remember the moment of the idea. And now, like magic, on my computer, last saved in December 2014, is a file containing 20,000 words I can’t remember writing.

This isn’t the first time I’ve had selective memory when it comes to writing. Once, I finished a screenplay to great relief. I was talking over the end of act two with Jill, and I told her that a very important character died.

“How’d he die?” Jill asked.

I looked at her—I had JUST finished this screenplay—and I… couldn’t remember. I paused for a moment, thinking my brain needed to process the question, but the moment passed AND I STILL COULDN’T REMEMBER. “I think it was his heart?”

She was flabbergasted. I was flabbergasted. “Flabbergasted” is an underutilized word IMO.

How could I not remember how one of the main characters died?! I was the one who killed him! I had just written it! And on top of that, he was my favorite character in this story, but I had no memory of his death.

There’s a chance that this is evidence of some sort of psychological disorder. To add evidence to that case, I also sometimes refer to myself as “we.” (I’m a little worried about that.)

But there’s a chance that this is just how my brain works. When I was in college, my creative writing professor said that you write first drafts with the child in your head, locking everyone else out. It’s only in the editing stages that you let a parent come in. Well, I’m not sure he meant it quite so literally as not remembering anything you write, but it could be that I’m less something in the DSM-5 and more something like what he was talking about.

So, I decided to read this incomplete novel, and GUESS WHAT?! I found a bit of an answer to this whole blackout thing. I take you to a scene where the main character is in art class:

“It was my haven, a place where I was free to make a fool of myself. Well, without anyone but myself to pass judgment, but I usually locked myself out of my head anyway and just did. Just was. Just made.”

There you go. I honestly can’t believe this was in there. If that’s not magic, I don’t what is.

Maybe this is a weird way to approach writing: not letting myself comment on it, not even letting myself hold onto any of it. But that’s when writing’s good. When it’s just doing, just is, just making. I want more of that stuff. That’s the good stuff.

And as a special inclusion. Here are some of my favorite passages from Hatch: An Incomplete Fantasy Epic:

“I could hear him in my room, but I couldn’t convince my eyes to open. This is what happens when you spend your entire winter break playing in any of the leftover snow with the neighbor’s kids, the ones that are at least four years too young to be considered any sort of lasting friends. No, instead, someday I’ll be the person who first used a cuss word or made a dirty joke. What a reputation. “

What does that even mean?? I’m so confused, Hilary. Like, really, what do we mean?

“There are some mothers who are quite good at gently waking up their children (or so I hear), and there are teenagers who actually wake up much like a cartoon version of optimism, smiling before fully opening their eyes, and sometimes not needing another person to be involved with the whole process (or so I hear). I am not that kind of teenager, and my mother is not that kind of mother.”

This is a total lesson in writing yourself. Why did I try to write someone so far away from me? I’m a morning person. In high school, I woke myself up 3 hours before school started so I could watch yesterday’s Young and the Restless alone. The only time I remember my mom going in my room during that time was when I forgot to set my clock back and was taking a bath at 3 am, and she was worried. Now, which is more interesting: the grump teenager who won’t wake up (and I know nothing about) or the 4:00 am bath taker?

“Elmer’s glue Mohawk”

DID YOU GUYS HAVE KIDS IN SCHOOL WHO WOULD DO THAT?!

“Some schools have football or swimming or basketball. We have show choir. (We also have basketball; this is still Indiana.)”

#SoTrue

“I think Mr. Harrington had a couple of inches on him, but this boy looked like he could pull the skin right off of a face or something really gross like that. “

Brilliant literature.

“Overreact much? Nothing. It’s just. I guess I sort of had this feeling that someone was watching me earlier. I know. Dumb. I’ve already decided it was just some hold-over paranoia from watching The Truman Show last week. I guess you could say I got Carrey-ed away.”

Holy cow. I’m packing my bags and giving up writing.

Sister Discovers Brother Drinks Starbucks

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MALIBU — Calling it one of the biggest deceptions in family history, twenty-four-year-old Agatha Hilsbottom was stunned to find that the culprit for the six Starbucks coffee cups tossed behind the passenger seat of her car was her very own older brother. Hilsbottom discovered the empty cups one week after her brother completed his stay with her in California. “I knew they weren’t mine,” said Hilsbottom, adding that she always saves her cups for the next morning when she brews coffee at home. “I pretend I’m drinking Starbucks, but it’s really just my generic brand.” It was only after hours of reasoning that Hilsbottom discovered the only individuals who had been in her car in the past month were her brother and her Labrador retriever. “The dog seemed unlikely,” she said. Hilsbottom claims that the cups must have come from her brother, a man she says didn’t used to drink coffee from Starbucks. “I should have known something was off when he ordered a ‘grande’ at Coffee Bean.” We were unable to reach Agatha’s brother for comment at this time. Hilsbottom did confirm that she plans to clean the old cups from her car to use for pretend purposes.

 

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Writing Me

I’ve been thinking lately. (This could be a bad sign.)

I’ve been thinking lately about writing. (Definitely a bad sign.)

And I’ve been thinking about my voice in writing. Wondering if I’ve found it, wondering if I’ve been looking for it the right way, and wondering if I’m telling the right stories about the right people in the right places.

I used to have this thought –and sometimes I still do—that I’d be an incredible writer once something either really great or really terrible or really unusual happened to me. I’ll be an incredible writer when I stumble on a new math theorem, and unlike most mathematicians, I’m hilarious and discovered a theorem at an incredibly young age. (This idea persisted for my sophomore year of high school when I thought being a mathematician was the best way to go about being a writer.) (Really.) Or I’ll be a great writer when everyone I know dies in a single plane crash, and it’s up to me to preserve the legacy of literally everyone I’ve ever met. Or I’ll be a great writer when my circumstances magically change to be a person on the fringe of society, some sort of misheard, misunderstood sub-group of the population that is desperate for an inspirational voice, and I’ll begrudgingly take on the role. They need me.

But I’ve been thinking lately that these scenarios might not be the best way to go about writing.

I’ve been thinking that even though I will never make (discover?) a math theorem or have a news-worthy tragedy happen or be anything other than a white, Christian, Midwesterner—even with all of that “boring” stuff—my story might just be worthy of telling.

My voice—this one I have right now at 24 that doesn’t know what in the hell it’s talking about—it might just have something to add to this world.

And this voice feels new and old at the same time. So much of my writing is an imitation of what other writers are doing. Heck, even this post was inspired but this kickass article. So much of my writing is trying to write the way I wish I thought and spoke instead of the way I do. It’s the poor Jonathon Safran Foer version of me. It’s the Rainbow Rowell version of me. (I like that version an awful lot.) So much of my writing is missing the version of me that’s just me.

I think I could be successful with these other versions. My writing would probably be cuter and funnier and have less Walmart involved.

But…

But the writing wouldn’t be me. It wouldn’t expand what we’re doing here, in this life business. What if I take a chance and say my voice is good enough?

I mean, maybe it’s not. Ha. I could fail terribly with my voice. My stories could be just as uninteresting as I fear they are.

But even if that’s the case, my voice, my life, my little view of the world, it deserves a shot. I get to be me and put me’s with me stories all over my writing because it’s mine. (Have I used “me” enough? No?)

I want to tell stories about youngest children growing up in Indiana and hating college and loving family and eating food and having jiggly bodies and laughing hysterically and crying over the stupid things. Because if I’m writing, what in the world am I doing not writing about the stupid things? I want to write only about the stupid things and imperfect people and little corners of my points of view.

In elementary school, I didn’t speak. Just for the first four years or so. But in the fourth grade, I remember getting actual friends for the first time in my life, and they would often repeat: “Hilary, I had no idea you were like this.” “This” often meant loud, funny, strong, or smart.

I feel like the same thing is happening with my writing, with my voice. All my life, I’ve seen it as this quiet, little thing that sort of got sad when I didn’t use it. I’ve underestimated it as something that needed an external push—most likely in the form of mass tragedy—to blossom, but maybe I have no idea it’s like “this”: it’s just as smart, quirky, weird, funny, dumb, pretty, average, crazy, and worthy of love as I am. I’ve been thinking about that lately.

Dear Writing

Hey Writing,

I’m not going to apologize. I feel like I finally need to give up that tick.

I guess I’ll just start with this: I miss you. I miss you a lot.

We’ve been together for a while, with some good stretches and the bad ones. This was a bad stretch.

But here’s what I want, okay? I want to fall in love with you again.

Not in love with what you can do, not in love with how you are with others, not in love with what you were to me once.

I want to fall in love. With YOU. Again.

You and me. Because you’re always there, aren’t you? In the morning’s dark hours, I look at you with the dog still warming my feet. I whisper to you in the middle of work. I walk with you. I drive with you.

I’ve been pushing you out of those moments. Keeping you away. Telling myself that I don’t have time. Telling myself that life is really okay without you.

And life really is okay without you.

But I’m not okay without you.

Remember in the early days when it was easy? When you’d wake me up in the middle of the night? When you filled my head with dreams about where we could go together? When I was satisfied to call you an indulgence.

Things are different now. We know each other. You’re difficult. You won’t leave me alone, and when I do give you time, you’re stagnant.

I’m difficult too. I know. I don’t know what it is that makes me want to stir up strife between us, but if you’re good for me, that automatically means I don’t like you.

Right now I don’t have butterflies in my stomach when I think about you. Right now I’m groaning that we even have to talk. And I’m a little afraid. Afraid that we aren’t right for each other. Because what if we aren’t right for each other? What if I just let you go? Loosen the grasp and let you float away, total Jack-style. (Or would it be Rose-style?)

But then I remember. We’re tethered, you and I. We’re tied together, and I can either run and keep running or I can embrace that every morning you’ll be staring me in the face. I have that choice, and I could run.

But I love you. I love you, and we’ll get through this bad stretch, won’t we? I think we will.

Writing. That’s All.

Notebook

I think I’m going to start writing my first drafts by hand.

I know. I agree. It’s either insane or insanely hipster. I wouldn’t mind being one of those; I couldn’t stand the beards. (That’s why I pluck mine.)

It’s just… Emma Thompson writes her first drafts by hand.

I really like Emma Thompson. She’s often the screenwriter that Dad references in conversation with me. Nora Ephron is also in the rotation, but Dad believes Emma to have more sense. I think it’s the British thing.

But writing by hand. It just doesn’t seem smart. My penmanship is a little lacking, and by little, I mean that my penmanship would make Mimi weep. (Mimi is basically a calligrapher.)

I used to have nice handwriting. It’s kind of like how I used to have nice hair. They’ve gone away. (I suspect my years of rushing made them run off.) (Kind of like this blog post.) But now my handwriting is scratchy and unintelligible. It’s something between cursive and Klingon. I always want my hand to move faster. I’ve got to get the next sentence down before it goes away.

But maybe I should. If Emma writes by hand, should I? Should everyone? Let’s review the pros and cons.

Pro: I like crossing things out.

Con: My handwriting so bad I can’t read what to cross out.

Pro: Jotting it down. I love to jot. It’s such a happy thing. It also sounds a bit like an exercise move, falling between jogging and skipping. (Which I think is just skipping.) But jotting. That’s nice.

(I can’t tell if I meant nice about jotting or about the sip of tea I just had.)

(Starry Chai.)

(I’m trying.)

Con: Typing after I write. It just seems like such a waste of time.

Pro: Typing after I write. Another editing step. Huzzah. It just seems like such a time saver.

Con: The first draft existing on paper and the fears that come with it.

Fear 1. Someone will read my first drafts and realize that I cannot write. (This someone will be a writer who writes spectacular first drafts. I hate him already.)

Fear 2. I will never be published, but the collection of notebooks full of scratch marks will follow me from home to home to my cardboard box by the bay, and spectators will realize I am a hoarder and lunatic and will begin throwing me old bread.

Fear 3. My handwriting will be analyzed by future machines that can identify psychological disorders in one letter. (If alive, see Fear 2. If dead, my good name!)

Fear 4. My children will read the first drafts and believe that my handwriting directly correlates with my abilities as a mother.

Pro: I don’t need a computer for the first couple drafts.

Con: How will I casually do internet shopping while writing? (Oh… maybe this is a pro.)

Pro: Emma Thompson does it, and if you can’t get behind the sensibilities of Ms. Thompson, can you even believe in anything uh-tahl?

“Just write because you can dive in later… You’ve got to create your raw material first. Do the knitting… It’s spinning the wool… If you’ve got nothing to work on, then it’s neither bad nor good; it’s just nothing. So just write. It doesn’t matter what you write. It does not matter… Just drawing the chair up to the writing desk and writing. Writing. That’s all. It’s the only thing that works for me.”  –Emma Thompson

The Moments I Knew

I would say I’ve wanted to be a writer my entire life.

I have had many dreams outside of writing, but it was always “I’ll be a _____ and a writer.”  (Blanks include marine biologist, nautical archaeologist, several other things that end in -gist, mathematician (ha!), and museum curator.)

But writing. Writing was always there, and every once in a while I get a reminder that it’s what I’m supposed to do with my life. Like little whispers to my heart, those moments of peaceful certainty are enough to sustain me through every hard writing day, countless rejections, and each time I have to throw away a story out and start again. Those quiet moments mean a lot, and they don’t happen very often.

But I had one this weekend.

The first “writing aha” moment was when I was seven (?) and wrote my first two picture books. After showing them to my mom, she said, “You could be a writer.” Now, Mom tells me I can be anything (as most moms do), but this was different. I knew she meant it, and I knew I really could.

Others have come throughout the years. One when I was fifteen and wrote a very silly two-page story (that included an elephant stampede) that I’m still convinced is some of my best work. Another, when I filled out a Pepperdine application at 11:30 at night–this is equivalent to 3 am for most other people.

And another, when I read the Boston Jane book series. I’ve blogged about Boston Jane before, but this weekend, the series came back into my life in a very wonderful way.

I got to meet the author of Boston Jane, Jennifer L. Holm, at the LA Times Festival of Books. (Don’t worry. I’m sure to blog about this festival at least three more times because it was amazing.)

I was able to get my trilogy signed and meet Ms. Holm and her brother, Matt. (They write super cute graphic novels together.)

And I don’t think my interaction with her could have gone much worse.

Jennifer: “Hello!”

Me: “Hi.” (I handed her Boston Jane.) “This book series made me want to be a writer.”

Jennifer: “Aww. You’re going to make me cry.”

Me: “Me too.” (I proceeded to cry.) “I’m sorry I don’t have the original covers.”

Jennifer: “That’s okay. I like these ones better.”

(I laughed for a beat too long.)

Me: “May I have a picture?”

Jennifer: “Sure.”

(We took a picture.)

Me: “Thank you. Thank you. Have a good day! Thank you.”

I ran away.

I don’t often crash and burn in interactions, but when I do, tears are usually involved. I don’t want to say I scared Jennifer Holm, but I definitely didn’t give off a very “mentally stable” vibe. I mean, we exchanged many smiles, but I couldn’t remember how to form words. (Also, my hair was doing weird things.)

It was bad. I was running away thinking about how I didn’t say anything I wanted to, except that first line, and then I remembered I forgot my phone with the volunteer who took our picture and had to go back and get it. Perfect.

I did a fast-paced walk in the other direction. Then, I decided to look at my signed copies because that would make me feel better, and in the second book (my favorite one), she put a note (that I hadn’t seen her write through my tears). And I looked at that note and thought, “That’s true. I don’t know when or how or any of the specifics, but I believe that’s true.”

And there it was. Suddenly, it didn’t matter that I had an awkward interaction with one of my favorite authors. It didn’t matter that I am more than a little unsure of where I’ll be when school lets out. It matters that I will be a writer, and I know it.

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big sur adventure

Last weekend was an adventure. Okay, okay, every weekend is an adventure, but last weekend was a really BIG, SURreal adventure.  See what I did there?

Last weekend I was fortunate enough to go to a super sweet writer’s conference in Big Sur.  The experience was magical and whimsical and cold and full of laughs and packed with complete freakouts.

Let me break it down for you.

Friday

Jill drives us from Malibu to Big Sur.  We pass a zebra farm (with an ocean view).  Why not?

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We get ready in the bathroom of the lodge’s lobby because our room isn’t ready yet. Great.

At the first workshop, my work is torn to shreds.  Overall response: “Cute idea, but terrible execution.”

I sulk.

I attempt to start a fire.  Please see Jill’s post for The Rest of The Story.  (Paul Harvey, I love you!)

I rewrite my first ten pages starting from scratch.

Saturday

Printing issues.  “Just tell him to bring my laptop to the airport. I’m going home.”  I never thought I was this dramatic.

I remember that the world is a magical place full of redwood trees.

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I go back to workshop, and my new pages are well-received.  Overall response: “Always write like this.” Will do.

So much coffee.  Not enough water.

I am on top of the world, and so is the entirety of FAC (First Authors Club).  We sing ROAR with more passion than anyone ever singing a Katy Perry song should.

We eat giant burgers really fast.  “My stomach. I don’t know what’s happening in there.”

Sunday

Bathroom issues.

“Jill, I want to be honest with you. I went to the bathroom. Some things happened. I opened a window.”

20 mins later in the lobby.

Me: “I wouldn’t use the left stall if I were you. Terrible things have occurred.”

Jill: “Was it you again?”

I find out the secret to perfect eyebrows. I will not share this information. wahahaha

FAC shares big (sur) hugs.  So many Big Sur puns out there…

We kick off the drive back with 30 minutes of laughing, screaming, and singing loudly.  It’s a total manic blackout.  I’m just happy we survived.

Overall Experience

I’m so thankful to have Jill and Katie, two brilliant, amazing writers and friends.  I’m so thankful that I write and that what I write has a place in the world.  I’m so thankful I went to Big Sur.

Oh, and I’m so thankful for you… and zebra farms.

roast beef is a conversation starter

Today I had to make a very, very difficult decision.  Think Divergent: “One choice can transform you.”

What was the decision?  Turkey or roast beef.  Let me explain.

This December- Oh, gosh. December is too close to say “this.”  Start again.

Next month, I’m going to a writer’s conference.  It’s in Big Sur.  It will be full of rainy, gorgeous scenery, writing all-nighters, and a billion requests for queries.  Right?  Okay, okay.  At the very least, it will be full of a nice drive to and from the conference, writing afternoons, and at least one awkward conversation with a literary agent.

This conference has brought some beautiful things into my life, the best being my writing group, First Authors Club (FAC).  FAC is made up of Jill and Katie and me.  Jill is a fabulous dresser and fantastic, feminist writer of teen female friendships.  I tried to jam as many “f’s” into that description as possible because Jill stands for “fun.”  Fun real stories, fun fictional stories, fun Farrah Fawcett hair, fun, fun, fun.  Katie is a fantasy queen, but her letter is “g” for great.  Great writing, great mom (to her baby, not to me – that would be weird), great friend, great conservative mind, great, great, great.

Playtime with these ladies, aka story notes time, is the highlight of my week.

Back to decisions. The conference has made small decisions (like what to do with my hair) take on a large weight.  Today, it got more than a little ridiculous.  We were emailed asking what kind of meat we would like on our sandwiches at the retreat.  My first inclination was turkey.  I mean, turkey is the safe choice.  Turkey is “doctor,” if you pick a husband by occupation.

But there’s a side of you that wants to pick “rock star” for your spouse’s job, right?  The rock star of deli meats? Roast beef.  All of the sudden, you think it’s so much more interesting to pick roast beef, the unusual, off-beat choice.  Here’s the danger: your rock star husband could be a big party dude who leaves you all alone with the screaming twins; in deli meat terms: it’s limp and fatty.  Now the fate of my future career seemed to rest on this one decision.  Everyone will pick turkey.  Turkey is the obvious choice.  Roast beef, though, roast beef is a conversation starter.

Scenario #1:  “Oh, is that roast beef?” an agent will ask. “I love roast beef. I thought I was the only one here. What’s your manuscript about? I want to represent you, you fellow beefer!”

Scenario #2: “That’s roast beef!” someone will shout. “All the best writers who aren’t vegetarians choose roast beef. I shall read your book, now.”

Scenario #3: “Oh, you’re eating roast beef,” another one will say. “That’s so interesting. I find you so interesting because of your deli meat choice. Let’s talk.”

So there was the choice.  Turkey or roast beef?  The doctor or rock star?  Lab coat or leather jacket?

It was at this point that I realized I had been riding the crazy train for a few minutes, maybe for a few years.  I got off at the next stop and emailed my choice.

Turkey.  Plain, safe turkey.  Although, if we’re talking husbands, I’d go for a pediatrician who plays for a terrible garage band on Sunday afternoons.  What is that in deli meat?

happy desk, happy life

I know the saying goes, “Happy wife, happy life,” but I’m not a wife.  I’ll just work with what I’ve got: a dog and a desk.  Estelle Getty better be happy. She’s a dog.  I treat her like a person half the time.  Be thankful, Estelle Getty.  My desk on the other hand is often… how should I put it?  In disarray? A pigsty? Good luck spending the next hour looking for the checkbook?  I think all of those are pretty accurate. But not for today. No. Today my desk is clean.  This is important because I’m a little obsessed with writing spaces.

I have two desks, kind of.  I really have one corner desk that is always clean and pristine and gets the perfect amount of light for writing.  Something I’ve learned about writing though: the desk doesn’t matter half as much as the chair.  Therefore, I mainly use my other desk *cough* coffee table *cough*  because I get to sit on very comfortable couch.

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I would love to use my spectacular chair I got for last year’s birthday (thanks, Mom and Dad!), but it’s slightly too large to go near a desk, meaning I’m left with only my lap space.

Why do writing spaces matter?  I’d like to say it’s because I spend so much time there, which I do, writing or not. But I think they matter to me mainly because I’ve romanticized them so much.  I romanticize things.  It’s sort of a problem. What things? British accents and Mickey Mouse ice cream bars and handwritten letters and old cars.  Strike handwritten letters. They’re actually pretty romantic.  But, the point is yes, these writing spaces are just spaces, but they’re also personality reflections and creative inspiration and neat.  I can’t be the only one that thinks they’re cool.  In fact, I know I’m not (because my mom likes them, too).  You know who really got the idea of a writing space? Mr. Roald Dahl.  I love Roald Dahl for many reasons, including whizpopping.

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Roald Dahl wrote in a big, comfy chair with a lap desk, big blanket, thermos of hot chocolate, and sharpened No. 2 pencils.  What a beautiful way to live.  See? Definitely romanticized.

The_Elephant_HouseJ.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter (the first one) at a Edinburgh restaurant, The Elephant House. 1. How cool of a name is “The Elephant House”? Super cool.  2. Writing in a public place everyday sounds… rough.  3. I am so impressed by Rowling’s ability to write an entire book (never mind writing Harry Potter) with her pants on the whole time. Wow.

6a0128760776fb970c0167694c1a26970b-500wiHow could I NOT talk about Jane Austen’s tiniest of tables? And I complain about not having enough room.  How crazy is it that Austen competed six novels on a surface I wouldn’t deem large enough to eat dinner on? Oh, Jane, you’re nothing short of fabulous, even in all of your tiny desk glory.  I’m noticing a British pattern… you know how I feel about the accent.

king-by-jill-krementzStephen King’s room.  If nothing else will sell you, On Writing will make you believe that you have to have a designated, poetically beautiful writing space. Oh, it will also make you realize that you are most likely a very bad writer, but that’s besides the point.  In King’s words: “It starts with this: put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn’t in the middle of the room. Life isn’t a support system for art. It’s the other way around.” See? He’s romantic, too.

What I’ve realized (King: “No passive voice!”) through our writing space journey is that the most important writing space has nothing to do with my desk.  It’s that room in my head where I lock everyone else out, especially the fourteen year old who tries to compare me to other people, until I let her come in because I have a fourteen year old character. It’s the place where I figure things out and go new places. It’s the place where I don’t think too much.  I explore.  It’s the place of adventure and fear and frustration.  And most importantly, it’s the place that doesn’t define my life.  It’s the other way around.

I made this post into an article for Lydia: http://www.lydiamag.com/2013/11/where-we-work-study-in-writing-spaces.html#more

Photos via  2, 3, 4, 5, 6