I have a theory. Writing, as you’ve probably noticed, entails feeling. And when we avoid writing, when we procrastinate by reorganizing the fridge or (more likely) scrolling through Facebook, it’s because we’re afraid to feel. We’re afraid because we worry that accessing our emotions will make us lose control, will loosen our grip on all of the things we’re barely managing as it is: our careers, our relationships, perhaps even our diets or our substance use or our sanity.Read More
If you’ve ever struggled to balance the demands of your paid work with your creative goals, this post is for you.
I’ve dragged my feet when it comes to writing about my story. Partly because I know I’ll have to revisit some difficult things I’ve faced over the past few years, and partly because I’m terrified of sounding fake.
So, before I write another word, here’s the truth: I don’t have it all figured out. I still struggle with perfectionism and self-doubt and anxiety and the rest of it. I still struggle to show up at the page, and sometimes I still hate myself for that.
I’ve grown, though, during these past few years. I’ve become aware of patterns in my thoughts and behaviors that drag me down, that keep me trapped in a dark little box of not writing and resenting myself for it.
And, slowly but surely, I’ve rearranged my life so that I write. So that I set down words and share them with my writer’s group and send them out to editors—and sometimes to you, you people of the internet.
Does that sound silly, or trivial? Well, for me, it’s a small miracle. But it entailed some difficult decisions, including leaving my dream job. That’s the slice of my story that I’ll be sharing today.Read More
I’ve alluded to my story many times in these posts.
I’ve danced around my story. Told you bits and bobs, dribs and drabs. Some of them quite personal, or painful. I’m a private person, so I wonder every day whether I should say so much about myself. But I’ve learned so much from other bloggers and writers who’ve opened up about their journeys, and my mission here is to go deep and to be honest.
So now I think it’s time to sketch out my story—or at least the arc of it—in one place.
Here’s the truth: three years ago, I nearly gave up on my longtime dream of being a writer.Read More
Always wanted to write? This entry’s for you.
“I always wanted to be a writer.”
People tell me this all the time—scientists, lawyers, yoga teachers. Writing is a precious, secret, painful dream for them. They talk about it in low voices, their gaze slipping to a corner of the room.
They talk about it the way you’d talk about the one who got away, the person you still love even though it’s been ages, even though you probably shouldn’t.
“I always thought I’d write a book.”
But life gets in the way. But you don’t think you can. But your father’s sick or money’s tight or your job sucks the life out of you.
It’s cruel: the times when it’s most difficult to write—when life is hard and your creative spark dims and your self-esteem is getting ripped out by the roots—are precisely when you need most to write.Read More
I failed at the violin.
I mentioned this recently to someone who knows me well—OK, my ex-fiancé—and his jaw dropped. Which is saying something, because at the time his mouth was full of Jersey diner waffle fries, and that stuff is precious cargo.
I guess I can understand his surprise. I played the violin for 16 years—from the age of five until I graduated from college. I entered competitions, attended summer programs, played in orchestras. I locked myself in the damp practice rooms beneath my college’s music building. I channeled my inner gypsy/witch when I performed the Saint-Saëns concerto, with its unsettling, strange beauty.
That might not sound like failure. But to me, it was. It is.
I was never as good at the violin as I wanted to be. I never managed to work hard enough at it, to give it my all. For years, the violin represented an instance where I failed to do my best, where I let people down—especially my dad, who spent hours each week shuttling me to and from lessons, writing up the advice my teachers gave me in his most careful handwriting, and checking on my progress.
When I zipped up my violin case after my senior year of college and adopted the excuse that I was just too busy to keep playing, I thought I’d move on. I thought a weight would be lifted from my soul.
But that never happened. I still carry the weight of that failure with me.
I explained all of this to my ex, but he was still baffled. “Sure,” he said, “you could have practiced every hour of every day, but you did other things with your life. That’s OK.”
But is it?Read More
This post features a Q&A with one of my favorite yoga teachers, Donna Amrita Davidge.
I love a vigorous yoga practice as much as anyone on this green earth. For years I believed I'd never be fit or athletic or strong, so discovering that I can hold a handstand for two seconds has been a revelation.
After all, two seconds feels like a long time when you’re upside down.
Five days a week, I practice yoga at my gym, where the classes are sweaty and challenging and packed with conspicuously beautiful people. (Seriously, where do these people come from? They make suburban New Jersey look like a music video.) Together, the beautiful people and I power our way through a million chaturangas and some til-death-do-us-part forearm planks, pouring sweat onto the hardwood floor.
After a particularly challenging class, as I weave my way through the gym's main level—past the giant TVs playing infomericals, past the gazelle-like women on the elliptical machines and the beautiful, intense souls who are bracing themselves to lift a giant barbell yet again—I congratulate myself for having survived.
Some days, though, I need a yoga practice that soothes my soul. I need something more spiritual, more meditative. That's where kundalini yoga comes in.Read More
My novel isn’t written yet.
I planned to finish it ages ago. Like any good former Catholic schoolgirl, I followed all of the best getting-stuff-done advice:
- Set daily goals for my word count.
- Gave myself firm deadlines.
- Asked friends to keep me accountable.
- Hired a life coach.
- Made spreadsheets, for goodness sake.
Something wasn’t working, though. Those deadlines came and went. I told myself I didn’t have enough free time, so last September I quit my job, hoping that the additional time and energy—not to mention the making-a-living sword dangling over my head—would spark brilliant sentences from my fingertips.
I even did visualizations, indulging in elaborate daydreams of typing “The End,” uncorking champagne, and receiving congratulatory hugs from friends and family and my agent. (No, I don’t have an agent, but it was my visualization, so I made it damn good.)
Well, none of that worked. Sixteen months after starting my novel, I’ve drafted about 55,000 words. Some of those words are good, some of them are dreadful, and I’ve been stuck around the 50,000-word mark for way longer than I’d care to admit.
So what happened?
When I was 21—and so fresh out of college I was still catching up on sleep—I complained to my mom that I didn’t have anything to write about.
I sighed, propping my elbows on my parents’ perfectly clean kitchen counter and gazing out at the tranquil suburbs that surrounded our house. “I mean, what could I possibly write?” I said. “My life’s just too boring.”
Well, that isn’t true anymore. Within the past year, I’ve lost a parent to cancer, quit my high-paying job without all that much of a backup plan, and canceled a wedding that was only seven weeks away. I’ve moved into an apartment with a hole in the bathroom wall. I’ve gone on dates and said humiliating things during them—for example: “Sorry, I’m a bit out of practice.” I’ve toppled out of a handstand in the middle of a crowded yoga class.
So what did I do? I poured all of the pain, all of the lessons I’ve learned from my father’s slow, horrible illness and the slow, horrible dissolution of my relationship, into a 1,700-word essay. I revised it ten times, until it sounded like me. It was lyrical but real, and still a bit raw about the edges. My mom cried when she read it.
And then I sent the piece to my dream venue. “It’ll be perfect there,” the woman who teaches my nonfiction class told me. I checked my email about a million times a day, looking for the editor’s reply. Every time I got a call from an unknown number, I wondered, “Could this be it?”
Tonight, I got my reply: a form email rejecting my essay. And just in case I was tempted to ask why, the note demurred, “The volume of submissions we receive makes it impractical for me to offer editorial feedback.”
Well, that’s that.Read More