More than anything— other than living a writer’s life— I dreamed of becoming a famous actress. Fame was essential. It was the only level of validation that would prove to my family I wasn’t a self-serving wastrel. I studied the craft, auditioned, performed, and I think— although, I might be wrong— if depression hadn’t walloped me, and I’d persisted long enough to work through my demons on the stage an actor’s life might’ve been mine. Perhaps, not on the scale of star-studded fame. But I might’ve become a household name for people in the business. The idea still lights me up. Makes me believe anything is possible and everything is figureoutable.
It wasn’t to be. My heart wasn’t in it. I thought it was because that’s what my head told me. But my mindscape was faultily wired— disconnected from my heart— so I never sensed or saw the neon warning signs. The little behaviors hardwired into fellow actors that seemed silly to me: saving programs and posters, keeping a scrap book of production photos or videos, giving my comps to potential directors, running out to the lobby after each performance to soak up audience praise, waiting in tingling anticipation of the opening night review and memorizing it when my performance was spotlighted. Never got into the swing of all that.
Of course, my disinterest could be interpreted as just me being humble, but if I said that you’d know it was a lie, so N-O-T not. But the biggest billboard behavior proving an actor’s life wasn’t for me— I was never sad when a show closed. Don’t misunderstand, there were several shows I would’ve been delighted to commit to for years because the play, my role and the cast were a stellar combination. But the rest of the time, once a show opened, I was ready to move on.
And that my dear friends, readers and voyeurs is the reason I’ve been in a mixed-up funk about writing over the last month. I fear disenchantment is waiting in the wings.
Fear the luster of writing has worn thin and about to vanish. It makes no sense. Like James Cagney in White Heat, I should be on top of the world. My editor says it’s a hell of a story and an excellent manuscript. And yes, it’s only her opinion, but I have no reason not to believe her. She cleared the path for me to write my heart out; I did and I’m proud of the result. Every moment of agony was worth it. But where’s the ecstasy? Why aren’t I chomping at the bit to get the query package in razzle dazzle shape?
What’s holding me back? Has my new found joy for sudoku and chess become a distractive monster for me the way binging and social media are for other writers?
I sit in this chair wearing fingerless gloves and two sweaters to ward off the winter chill of this rainy April day with a mug of espresso vanilla hazelnut coffee on the warmer, and I’m torn, like James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause. Torn over the three projects nattering at me: 1- polishing the manuscript and the query materials, 2- completing the memoir, and 3-researching the historical novel. Each project is begging me to make them a priority, which is a ridiculous distraction since I have no intention of changing the order in which they must be completed. Manuscript, Memoir, Research, Yeppir!
Anxiety mounts, whiplashes me back to my theatre days. Is reaching this stage of development with Kaitlyn’s story the equivalent of an opening night? Do I no longer care about writing? Do I need another challenge? Is it time to learn the autoharp? Or become fluent in French?
Now, that I’ve written those options down the answer to all is an unequivocal no— except for maybe the autoharp, like Loretta Lynn I’ve got Country in My Genes— Okay, fine, so what’s tearing me apart?
I fear none of my projects will deliver peace.
Writing Kaitlyn’s story was a way of rewriting my own. Just like Nora Seed hopes to find her perfect happy life in The Midnight Library. But perfect happy lives don’t make for interesting storytelling, and so, I wrote a dark haunting tale, which forced me to face my demons. A lot of emotional healing has taken place, but demons are like potato chips you can’t tackle just one. That’s why I need to finish the memoir. And why the historical novel has presented itself— because the central character is the poster child for another one of my issues.
No matter what world you create you’re always dealing with your own shit. Same shit, different mask. You’ve chosen to explore a certain character because something about it resonates with you— Chuck Palahniuk
Shazam! Peace in my lap. Writing gives me agency; it is the medium by which I can wrestle the demons into submission. Of course, they will shapeshift and blindside me again— that is their job. Mine is to counterpunch with the perfect scenario and a most unlikely heroine to undercut their power.
Wow! Everything is Figureoutable once your heart finds its home. Thanks for listening and providing this weekly opportunity to heal my soul.