A few months ago I took on the insane project of writing a book. This is not an easy task. Being a writer is not romantic. It’s hard work.
I got stuck.
Instead of giving up, I hired a writing coach. She is awesome. She is also the author and photographer over here at the Mt. Tam 365 blog. My coach gave me some assignments to help get things flowing again. One of the assignments was to read Anne Lamott’s book called Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. Following their instructions I have started to let my writing flow more by writing my “shitty first draft” what Anne Lamott calls your first draft. To write like no one is reading. That is what I have been doing and my writing has been flowing.
I’ve also been spending some time reflecting on why my writing has taken so long to flow, as in 41 years. I’ve always wanted to write but I never really put myself out there until I started this blog. Below is one of the reasons I never made it as a writer, take a close look at the certificate I was awarded from the UC Irvine Newspaper, the NewU.
When I was 20 years old I transferred from the local community college to UC Irvine to get my bachelors degree in Social Ecology. This was a big deal for me.
Instead of living in the dorms I found a super cool beach rental on Balboa Island which I shared with 3 other roommates. It was actually cheaper than living in a dorm. The problem was, 2 of my roommates were guys and within weeks of moving in I fell for one of them. ‘If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one your with’ is the song that comes to mind when I think of this relationship. I’ll save that story for another day. What I found myself in at the age of 20 was a relationship on fast forward. We were already living together before our first date, so much for my young, carefree, college years.
Looking back this was not the best move for my own autonomy and self growth. Suddenly I was in a very grown up relationship. My thriving successful self started to disappear behind this new boyfriend. I became his support, you know the saying “behind every successful man is a great woman” well I was THAT woman. I kid you not, I won that award from UC Irvine’s official Newspaper as “the most tolerant NewU girlfriend” while he won awards for writing. You know what really sucks about this is I am the one who wanted to write for the newspaper!
When I was still feeling like I could conquer the world in the beginning days of UCI, I was the brave one who went up to the newspaper office all by myself and said I wanted to write a story. I wanted to be a journalist. The editor welcomed me and gave me my 1st assignment which was to write about the Greek sorority system at UCI. I was excited about my story. I came home and told new boyfriend. He immediately wanted to work for the newspaper too and we talked about how we could be journalist together. The next day I took him to the NewU office and introduced him to the editor. They hit it off. Boyfriend got assigned a story writing about the treatment of the gardeners at UCI. He spoke Spanish so he had an ‘in’ with the workers.
I am not sure what happened over the next few weeks but his story became bigger than life and mine felt meaningless and stupid. I started feeling inadequate next to him and decided there was only room for one journalist in our household and that would be him. I couldn’t compete. I just faded away and never wrote my story. I also never showed my face at the NewU office for awhile out of shame. I finally had to when boyfriend got offered a staff position there, I had to be brave and show my face and apologize to the editor for being such a flake. I was too embarrassed to explain what had happened and why I had not written the story. At this point I was also too ashamed to ask for another chance even though I so badly wanted to write for the paper and have my voice heard.
By the way, boyfriend’s story ran on the front page of the paper and went on to win awards. He got so in to his work at the NewU he ended up having to work late there on Friday nights. His old car broke down and did not run so he was depending on me and the bus system to get him around. The buses did not run late on Friday nights so I became his chauffeur. In usual Sally fashion I worked my life around his and put his needs first. He has gone on to write numerous features and articles for national magazines and last I checked has published two successful books.
I am not telling you this story to blame boyfriend for my lack of success. It’s more a realization that it is finally time to put myself first. This has been the biggest challenge for me in writing, finding time to write, putting my writing before everyone else’s needs is harder than the actual writing. I’m going to hang this certificate on the wall as a reminder to focus on myself and my writing because I really don’t need any more best supporting wife/girlfriend/stepmom/friend awards. I’m going for the Emmy in life!