Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Grandiose Notions

In my youth, writing was a career path that only the extremely intelligent, imaginative, well educated, gifted, inspired people dare travel. We didn't have self publishing, and mostly wrote longhand in paper notebooks or typed our thoughts on a typewriter.  To be a writer meant that you first spent agonizing years writing and crafting a manuscript of value, nervously sharing it with a trusted friend, then knocking on many doors, searching for an agent, praying that your first lines would be read by an editor sitting in a high rise in New York City.  During months of no response, you felt certain that either your manuscript was

 A. Never Read, or
 B. Quickly scanned with a smirk of distaste and thrown in the trash, or
C.  In the process of being rejected by an official letter to try again next time.

 Years later, I discovered that many people carry an unspoken desire to be an accomplished writer.  Many would-be writers start out dreaming of being published, discovered as a new and brilliant talent, instantly famous and constantly traveling for research and book tours.  Remember how Ralphie in A Christmas Story imagines the teacher's response to his essay?  I was am like Ralphie, a big dreamer, always hoping for gold stars and praise.  Like Ralphie, I often have to deal with reality after my grandiose notions are crushed like pop cans in a parking lot.

I admit that in my young adulthood, I fantasized about being interviewed on Oprah for writing a book that influenced millions.

Grandiose notions are a way to escape the dull gray days of winter and the boredom of kitchen work. As a child, I remember mentally recording domestic scenes as if I were in a movie based on the story of my life.

"There, in the brown and yellow kitchen, Jenny stood over the plastic can, peeling long strings of carrot that never landed squarely on the pile of trash, but draped over the sides like limp, wet socks on a clothesline.  Her father, who missed his true calling as a French chef, commented on the sloppy job performance."

It was fun to imagine that people would be watching this scene in a dark theater, munching on popcorn, totally entranced by a child peeling carrots.

In my final semester of college, my writing tutor, who was a poet, asked me what I planned to do after graduation.  I sucked in a big breath and let out my secret desire.  It came out like a squeak:  "I um, was, um, thinking about writing, err something like that..."

This poet, who later became my friend, said that I would know if I was a writer if language fascinated me so much that I read everything, everywhere I went.

  He said,  "if one day you find yourself intently reading the tag on a mattress, you are probably a writer."

God bless you, Doug, for encouraging me without adding an impossible criteria. You didn't know that I had just been told by my intimidating professor and academic advisor that I was more of a "reader" than a "writer." 

Many times I've heard that on the road to sustaining oneself, you must focus on the things you do best, and the subjects you like the most.

I started out like that.  I thought I was best at caring for children, so I became a licensed child care provider.  I thought I was best at cleaning, so I became a housekeeper.  I thought I was best at reading, so I became a librarian.  I thought I was best at being a mom, so I got married and started a family.  I thought I was best at gardening, so I became the manager of a garden center.  I've never been great at taking criticism or being rejected, so I never became a writer.  Grandiose notions got in the way.

Writing is more than being interested in mattress tags.  It's about thinking with your brain exposed to someone else.  Doug forgot to add that I needed to first be okay with that part. Writers have to be brave enough to show their minds and hearts. They have to relax and realize that the whole world is never going to even know that you wrote something. Or care.

Lately I have not been here, practicing my craft.  I haven't been visiting my fellow writers.  Life has been so full of things that I have avoided recording the carrot strings of daily living.  I often wonder if my blog is dead.

Then I remember that it still lives as long as I want to keep writing.  And relating to people on a deeper level than can be achieved in face to face conversations or in status updates.

For me, being a writer is now more about practice than results.  I just keep going on with it, never sure if it matters to anyone.  I'm okay with that.

It's just me, peeling long strings of carrots. 


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