This whole chasing-a-dream business is nuts.
I still get all embarrassed-like and blushy when I talk about writing (or you know, the book). I stayed so veeeeerrrry quiet about it all (the book, I mean), because you don’t just quit your job to be a full-time mom and then write a novel during nap times and after bedtimes and way-too-late-into-the-night times and walk around telling people “Oh, yeah, I don’t have a paying job, but I write because I must” because people who actually go to offices and classrooms and oh, I don’t know, war zones for a living might not really appreciate the lady in a messy ponytail and crayon-stained yoga pants with a toddler hanging by its fingers from her waistband talking about how she sits around on her rear end for hours eating jelly beans and just typetypetyping for fun.
But I did. I started writing, and then, like some strange fungus that starts out as a little spot then grows until it’s an infestation you need special medication to treat ((you know, like athlete’s foot), I didn’t stop. Emails at first, of such horrendously long length that my friends would actually wait to read them until they were up in the middle of the night nursing their own babies because THAT’S how long they were, then the blog happened, then I wrote the novel, because I really wanted to, and hello, it’s a novel, and what heck of an accomplishment is that (or validation for some sort of insanity complex?). And then, through the miracle of some light from the heavens that just happened to shine upon me for a glimmering moment (hi, Dad!), I landed the AGENT: a real-life, honest-to-goodness agent. And after that I thought, okay, maybe, just maybe, I can tell a couple of people about this writing thing and not sound like someone who clearly needs to be reminded what the term “W-2 form” means.
So I did. I told more than the handful of friends who already knew about this little dream. I told you. And with that, the dream was out there, the statement made, the vulnerability exposed.
I write. I want to write. And holy crap, it’s not just one book I want to write. There are more.
I AM INSANE.
But here’s the thing about writing a novel, and trying to get an agent, and hoping to get published because that will give you an excuse to stay at home even once the kids are in school and continue that infernal typetypetyping and jelly bean-eating: it’s hard. I mean, stop-and-start, hope-and-dejection, courage-and-disappointment hard. And I’m only at the beginning.
I’m in the last round of revisions before Katie goes to try to sell this thing to someone who’d be willing to print it on pretty paper and smack a cover on it and actually try to get into people’s hands. Revisions have taken a very long time. It’s been darned near impossible to find chunks of time to write now that Cian’s here, mainly because Cian does. not. sleep. But besides that (if there can be a besides that, because that is pretty huge), I have been writing scared–scared to fail, scared to let go, scared to just let it happen–and only now am beginning to understand what it means to simply write. And it’s sink or swim now. But honest: I’ve been practicing my doggie paddle very, very hard.
What I’m also realizing about dream-chasing is that it’s not like what you see in the movies (“No $#!%, Leah,” you say). It’s not knocking at the door until it finally opens, and simply stepping across the threshold. No, not at all. It’s more like kicking open the door only to find Mt. Everest on the other side (that’s still a big deal, right? Climbing Mt. Everest? Because I read somewhere that climbing Mt. Everest is sort of pooh-poohed now in the mountain climbing world. Also, did you know you can hallucinate from lack of oxygen on a mountaintop? Also, lack of sleep. So, basically: chasing goals causes you to hallucinate. And gives you athlete’s foot). But this is what dream-chasing is: it’s finding the door, knocking that sucker down, then strapping on your backpack because you’ve only just started the journey. It’s one step forward and five steps back, while trying to maintain the knowledge that really, it’s okay, because at least your legs are going somewhere.
I don’t exercise, um, ever anymore.
I don’t sleep. But that’s really because it’s been six months and Cian is still so excited to be alive he’s cool with partying all night.
I walk around in a minor state of anxiety most of the time because there’s so much to do, so much that I WANT to do, and, as we all know, the day is short when your life isn’t the only one you’re in charge of.
I am a terrible emailer. I forget birthdays. I write thank-you notes months after being given a gift, and then forget to send them. I read messages on my phone, then realize two weeks later I never wrote the person back.
I am constantly, CONSTANTLY wiping someone’s tears, or someone’s mouth, or someone’s bottom. I am a writer, a mother, and a wiper (why did no one warn me how gross it all is?).
I’m halfway through Lauren Graham’s debut novel Someday, Someday, Maybe (read in 10-minute installments before bed, while nursing, while brushing my teeth…), which I picked up solely because Gilmore Girls was pretty much the best show of my 20s, and if Lorelai writes a novel, I’m going to go read that novel. In her story, the main character is a struggling actress desperate to land an agent and “make it.” It’s a funny book, and engaging, and I want to find out what happens next. The entire novel is about the protagonist trying to land the dream. Do see where I’m going with this? Three hundred and fifty-two pages, all about the struggle. Because we all know that if the chase were easy for the main character, the book would be so boring we’d put it down midway through Chapter 1 to read the cover story of this week’s People instead.
So that’s my point with all of this, I suppose. I am in the process of dream chasing. I have absolutely no idea how it will end up, but that’s okay, because at least I’m en route, in some way. I have the following going for me: a) an agent, bless her optimistic heart, who keeps pushing me to be better while still saying, “yeah, you got this,” b) family and friends who cheer me on, acting as though, yeah, it’s a book. Just write the damned thing already, and c) a stubborn streak that rears its caffeine-fueled head when necessary.
I promised Saoirse that I would spend more time with her and her siblings this summer, so I’m working on the manuscript at night (if the boy-child manages to go down before ten), or when David takes the girls with him on errands, or while they’re at day camp and Cian finally settles down to nap–and like I said, this is just to get it ready to try to sell. But I’m enjoying the process so much this time–unless that’s the delirium talking. It’s neat what I’m learning–about writing, about myself as a writer, about this character I’m trying to develop.
I’ve a former student who wants to go into fashion merchandising. It’s her dream. I’ve a friend who wants to start a photography business. It’s her talent. I’ve another friend who’s setting up a shop on Etsy because her children are old enough now that she can start to dedicate more time to the art she’s so danged-darned good at making. We’re all scared. But we’re all excited. It is so much work, this dream-chasing business. It requires you to stop being afraid, to listen–and use–the advice of others who know more than you, to rely on the people who want to help you with their encouragement and time. It demands that you recognize that you’re going to have to enjoy the journey as much as the goal, because once you reach that goal, you’re going to have to keep going anyway. You have no choice.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Now, strap on your backpack and go.