I hate Mondays. I especially hate Mondays lately because they’re a reminder that another week has gone by and I’m no closer. They’re like an abrupt slap in the face when I’m not looking. They startle me back to the realization, that YES, I’m still a loser. Did you know that most heart attacks occur on Mondays? I completely understand why.
Here’s what today’s slap feels like. Here’s what’s making my heart hurt on this Monday.
I lasted 30 days, not 90, in my quest to be a happily unemployed writer. Some might call it “fun-employed,” but I hate that word. Deeply HATE. There’s nothing fun about it unless you’ve a million dollars sitting in the bank, zero debt, and a maid named Marina serving you fresh squeezed lemonade and tuna sandwiches. While I managed to make some headway on “my novel,” I’m nowhere near a finished product I can be proud of. 35 thousand words of unedited drivel doesn’t really qualify as progress. I had to find a job, people. “Writing” instead of working, just seemed ridiculous when my husband was working hard to pay MY bills. I felt vain and self-indulgent and guilty. So very very guilty.
The anxiety of student loans, a car payment, and a mortgage, spurred me to take to Craigslist like a hooker with a hankering for ass play. And when I found the job of my dreams LITERALLY right down the street from my house, I felt like the Universe had dangled a chocolate stuffed croissant in front of my nose and then kissed me. I’m thrilled that I found an awesome job helping a tech company with office management and marketing 5-MINUTES AWAY from my condo, but I’m also upset with myself for being a coward and a realist. This is the worst state of being, I’ve discovered. Not only are you held back by fear, but you’re fear is concrete and fact based.
Despite the rational nature of things, which I’ll get to in a second, I must lament once again about my plight as an unfulfilled and very confused “writer.” I have had one too many days like today where I’m drowning in doubt that I’ll ever be good enough. Yes, I love to write. I truly madly deeply LOVE the process of giving birth to a world of characters that think and feel and fight. And yes, I’ll keep doing it. Forever. As long as I’m alive I’ll do it. I’ll always write something. But the creative process becomes even more tortuous when you look around and realize that a lot is riding on your little passion project. People can tell you: “Just write for the love of it!” But they certainly aren’t offering to pay off your Sallie Mae loan, are they?
This is my reality: I’m a married woman with freaking bills up the waxed wazoo, a preference for meals cooked by other people, and a borderline shopping addiction. You try bridging the gap between Forever 21 and the third decade of your existence and tell me how YOUR wardrobe fairs. I woke up one day and realized that it’s called Forever 21 for a reason. Forever’s size large is meant for curvy teenagers, not 31-year-old women with birthing hips. Oh and on a side hot pink post it note, I’m having unprotected sex with my husband hoping just as much that I do get pregnant as I don’t. I’d feel pretty awkward going on job interviews 5-months pregnant, wouldn’t you? Basically if I’d have gotten pregnant this month or last, I probably would have been forced to submit to joblessness for the next several years. That’s a long time to avoid online shopping, fine Mexican food, and paying student loans for your several useless degrees. That’s also a lot to think about when you’re supposed to be dreaming up sub-plots and avoiding cliches in your dialogue.
To add insult to injury on this Monday, I got an email from Writer’s Digest which made me feel even more like a piece of the petrified dog doo that I didn’t get around to cleaning off my porch last night. I’d spent most of the morning mentally torturing myself for not writing this weekend, not reading about Products Liability (my last semester of law school can’t end soon enough), and not folding the laundry still sitting in the dryer, when I saw the Writer’s Digest spam email titled: “How Good is Your Platform?” I opened it and read on: “Enhance (or Create) Your Platform to Build Your Audience & Promote Your Book. Only 30 Seats Left – Starts Wednesday!“
First of all, can I have 5-minutes to write the book first, Writer’s Digest? Thank you. Second of all, platforms are stupid. I’m writing this blog right now because it’s either this or beat kittens. Forget about platforms. I get so totally freaked out when I think about “enhancing” and “creating” one. Did the author of Edgar Sawtelle have a platform? Did Emily Giffin of Something Borrowed have a platform? What about Kathryn Stockett of The Help? While it’s true that they have websites now (and Twitter and Facebook too), I’m pretty sure they didn’t before their brilliant books were written. Instead of worrying about Tweets, they spent their time writing the best story they could possibly write. Instead of worrying about “building their audience” they agonized over plot detail and bitter, seemingly endless rejection.Would that have been different if they had posted video blogs?
The Writer’s Digest email probably would not have hit so hard today, if I hadn’t spent the weekend talking to a friend about another friend’s blog that’s now wildly successful. “Well does she want to write fiction?” I asked him when he said she hoped to get a book deal out of it all.
“Non-fiction,” he answered, allowing me to let my breath out. I’d been holding it because I just can’t compete with all the blogs out there about fiction writing. About the process. About character building and carefully crafted prose. About plot construction. After all, what else would my platform be if not about writing? And why am I even worrying about my “platform” or “blog” in the first place. Shouldn’t I be worrying about the unwritten book instead?
“You should be reaching your readers NOW,” another very successful blogger friend had told me when I asked her about all of this building an audience business. She explained, “It’ll look good to agents and publishers.” But wouldn’t a great, well-written book look even better than 2,000 Facebook likes?
I panicked. How is Fitnesswhore.com going to sway an agent into signing me? It’s not. I write my rants here and my wacky exercise adventures there, neither of which has anything to do with what my novel’s about: A gold-digger from Susanville, California who moves to Los Angeles to work at a haunted entertainment law firm.
Writer’s Digest and my two writer savvy friends aren’t wrong to think in terms of share-ability and the viral voice. People are successfully self-publishing every day, all because they’ve captivated thousands through some clever blog posts. People are making millions slinging e-books about dating and dieting all because they’ve built, one tweet at a time, an online empire. We ARE an interactive society where clicking keeps people interested. I can’t deny that. But I can’t worry about it either. I will keep writing about ways to burn more calories. I will keep writing about how much I disdain Mondays. I will re post old poetry because I want too. And someday, eventually, I will finish a 100,000 word novel. Hopefully I will remember the one thing the writers I admire most didn’t forget: a good story is the best platform of all. Even on a Monday.