There are times I feel younger than my age because of weird enthusiasms. Like when I lean in with glee to hear about a friends sexual interludes, or when I joke about nutsacks with my kids, and obviously when I pretend the pool cue is a tail and trot oddly around the game room.
Then there are times when I feel about 16 for more sickly reasons. I measure up my outfits against other moms at school pick up, I force myself to stay late at a party for fear I will miss something, and when I rebel against an assignment as if someone were trying to lure me into their basement and feed me only salad for the rest of my life. Or something equally terrifying.
In my early college years I walked around with perpetual writers block. I was surprised I could even move my body there were so many words stuck inside my head. I thought my condition was emanating from me like waves and wanted to warn people away from me for fear it was contagious. They were magical creatures these other students who could do things like start writing, stop to pee or even go to the gym and then START AGAIN. What was this madness?
Since leaving school I have lived a life without assignments.
Any deadlines I have are self imposed. The work I do changes with the month and my mood. There are things I have started and finished, and many more I have started and stopped. Never to START AGAIN.
My wordpress blog dashboard is full of drafts. Probably a ratio of 4:1 to the posts I publish. My blogging style fits me.
- I write,
- I publish.
- There is no three.
I skip the hard part. The review and improvement. The changes small and large. The rules of grammar. The need to weave in a different perspective for a different day.
For the past year I have been sucking at writing a book. This thing is terrible. Unreadable. I have plugged away though, sometimes even reflecting and rewriting. Occasionally I add structure that might (in theory) make it understandable to someone other than me. One day I might do something with it. For now I am using it as practice, a place to experiment with voice, and even more so with a more disciplined version of writing. It is a story from my past. One I want and need to explore but it can come slowly. No has any expectations for a product. Not even me.
This month I got back into writing short form work. I have a spreadsheet where I track the things I submit. Some are syndicated versions of posts I have made public on my blog. Others are originals. In contrast to my larger project I am trying to write in the present tense. Which is presently making me tense.
Last week I sent a query letter to an editor at a The Good Men Project. In the body of the email I spat out a writing sample. It rolled out in a single sitting. I was pleased when she asked to publish that piece as is with just a title change. There is nothing better than writing something and never having to see it again. I wanted this piece to stay in the past.
This time I was wrong though. It got a fair amount of shares through their website and has been picked up by several other outlets for syndication. This is good. Except for the ways it is not good. It means I have had to reread the piece and realize (how could I not have known) that it set in the past and written in the past tense. Worse than that the longer life of this piece means I had to answer truthfully my mother in law’s question about the topic of my article (sex with her son. Except I just said sex. Which was slightly less horrifying.) It means a few other websites have approached me about writing for them. I realize that I should be putting this last one in the good list.
But I am like a sucky 16 year old so I won’t.
I reply politely and with fairly good grammar to each inquiry email. When they ask for a pitch I send a pitch. Guess what happens next?
They ask me to write what I told them I would write.
It turns out this is crushingly hard. I look at the listicle one outlet has asked me to write. The entire thing was 80% finished in my reply email. I cut and pasted that to a word document. Were it has taunted me for two days. Who knew a chipper little list could be so angry.
“I don’t hear anything”
“I don’t even have the words to write you, how can you have the words to mock me?”
This piece (like the other three I have agreed to write) was my idea and sport my deadline. That doesn’t seem to matter at all. I might as well be a college kid again, fighting against Psych and Poly Sci., kicking and screaming against the invisible force that wants to tie me down, limit my topics and my time.
It doesn’t seem to matter that that force is me.
My past on the page was not perfect and my present seems to be just as tense.