Sunday, February 08, 2015

Writer and Author

I'm reading a lot about writing right now. About the right place and the right mood and the right subject. I'm reading so much about writing that I'm not writing a damn thing.

And here is what I've realized: the place and the mood and even the subject don't really matter. It's time. Time is what matters. And that's mighty hard to come by with a life as rich as mine. I love my life. I don't really want to change anything. Well, maybe the cleaning. I could do without that. But everything else? I'm selfish. I don't want to give it up. I don't want to be a crappy mother so I can devote more time to writing. Being a mama is the biggest job I will ever have, and it looks like I've got one shot at it. Besides, that girl, that girl who I waited two whole years to conceive and who grew for nine months in my body, that girl who is half me and half my best friend…I love her more than anything. She is my legacy, more important than anything I will write or photograph or do. So I'm not giving that up. To a lesser extent, I also don't want to give up work (most days) (some days) (kinda). It feeds my soul in a different way, helping me feel needed and vital and like a contributor to a bigger cause. It also gives me so much material that I'd be crazy stupid to walk away.

Two emails received Friday that show why I don't want to quit my job:

  • "The sophomores are taking small butter tubs from the dining hall and grinding them into the high school carpet. Please be aware of this and on the lookout."
  • "The Chinese exchange students will be performing a yo-yo demonstration at the Tuesday morning assembly. Please keep your announcements brief."

Seriously, people. I can't make that stuff up. If I worked from home, I'd never see Chinese exchange students doing a yo-yo demonstration.

I don't want to give up my friends, or my volunteer work, or the time I spend with loved ones. Those feed my soul in many different ways. And they keep me laughing and ensure that I feel supported and loved and cherished.

I really think I should just give up the cleaning. And today, that's exactly what I'm doing.

I'm getting a little bit of stuff done. Dinner is planned and started, the laundry has begun, the beds have been stripped, washed and re-made. I cleaned off the kitchen counter. Somewhat.

But right now the floors desperately need to be vacuumed and the couches are full of cat fur and, on one cushion, cat barf, and the house could use a good dusting. I'm not doing those things. Not right now. M is out feeding his soul and Zoe's playing at a friend's house. I have what I never have: time.

I am hanging out on the couch (the non-catbarf one) with my feet on an ottoman. Sweet tea on the end table. KSHE on the radio. Cat by my side (the non-barfing one). And I'm typing. I'm not really writing anything worth shit, but at least I'm typing something.

I found out on Friday that I won a writing contest. Short story. I mentioned it a few months ago, mainly to show off for actually entering something. That was my big win. To attempt to write something others would want to read, and then get over myself already and send it off for others to actually read. I had never written fiction before. And, in fact, I haven't written it since. I knew the Guild was supposed to announce the winners at the February open mic night, and since I hadn't heard anything I knew that I hadn't even so much as garnered an honorable mention. Which really didn't upset me because, you know, this was my first go at fiction and my first submission anywhere and I had already won just by doing the damn thing. I marked my calendar so I could attend the open mic and hear what a winning short story sounds like. Learn something, maybe.

And then Friday morning, in between typing emails and printing last-minute signs for the school's fundraiser auction and giving instructions to the guy who works for me, I received an email from one of the Guild board members. It said, "Congratulations" in the subject, and I clicked it open so fast that I didn't even have time to really comprehend what "congratulations" might mean or might be for. That morning I had been so busy that I was opening messages on autopilot and trying to get through things as fast as I could. I don't remember reading the first few words. I got stuck on "first place" and stopped, stunned. Everything, all the rush rush and busyness, just stopped. And then I started crying and shaking and I wanted to scream and dance on my desk and run around in circles, bunions be damned. I called M and tried to calm myself down so he didn't immediately jump to the conclusion that something terrible had happened to our child (which is what I would do if someone called me in hysterics, naturally). And then I called and emailed a boatload of people. It was boastful and I felt a weensy bit of guilt over that, but I was so happy that I just wanted to share.

Then I went back to the email and read it again, slowly, to ensure that I hadn't misunderstood it and wouldn't have to call and email everybody back and say "never mind." Then I read it on my phone, just to see how it looked there. (It looked goooood.)

And then it hit me. I am a writer. I am more than just a woman who types shit and posts it on her blog for three people to read. Although I do that, too. M has been calling me "author," and I have been reprimanding him. "No, no. I'm just a writer." I'm pretty pleased to be able to call myself that, so let's not get carried away. This morning, though, I wondered, do I really know the difference? Do I? What makes a writer a writer and an author an author? In my head I had it tangled up with publishing. Authors are published. But then again, I don't really know shit about all this so I googled it. It turns out I'm a writer AND an author. How cool is that?

Writers write in service of others. So the news releases and biographies and letters and announcements I do every day at my job make me a writer. Authors write for themselves, and to share their own ideas with the world. Well, fuck. I've been doing that for years. Huh.

So, there it is. I'm finally acknowledging to myself, thanks to some courage courtesy of winning the Saint Louis Writer's Guild annual short story contest, that I'm a writer and an author. It feels pretty damn good.

Also, I just want to say that this contest is a national competition that's been going on since 1920 and that Tennessee Williams won in 1935. TENNESSEE WILLIAMS, PEOPLE. I think I'm more excited about my name going on a list that includes Tennessee Williams than the hundred bucks I get for prize money. No, I know I am.

Note: I just got up and changed the laundry over and folded clothes and put them away and cleaned up the cat barf. There's only so much I can let slide, even as a writer and an author. I suppose this means that when my short author's biography is requested I will have to submit something like, "Amy lives with her husband, daughter, two cats and a guinea pig. She cleans up cat barf when she's not writing, or even, sometimes, when she is."

Monday, February 02, 2015

What bunions really represent

I'm off to see the podiatrist today. About my bunions.

This is so distressing to me. Not the bunions, mind you, but what they represent.

  • I have to watch my fiber intake now.
  • I can no longer drink a ton of beer and not have serious repercussions the next day.
  • I listen to, and quote, NPR.
  • I buy shoes and clothes based solely on comfort.
  • Loud noises irritate the shit out of me.
  • I can't drink caffeine after 11 a.m. or I'll be up all night.
  • Even if I don't drink caffeine I'm usually up all night, unless I use a pharmaceutical sleep aid.
  • I don't get Twitter. Or Tumblr. Or many other social media platforms.
  • I am thrilled to have an adjustable bed, in which I can elevate my feet at the end of a long day.
  • Competency, to me, is knowing that I have a stash of tissues in my handbag at all times.
  • I'm off to see the podiatrist today.

Gawd, I am old.

I am no longer a whippersnapper. I really enjoyed being a whippersnapper, so it's sad for me to realize I have moved on to the next stage in my life: solidly middle-aged. How boring.

  • I use terms like "whippersnapper."
I don't want to fight it, though. I feel myself sliding somewhat out of relevancy, and while it's mildly disconcerting it's also quite comfortable. I no longer know how to update every single thing on my employer's website, delegating that instead to the young whippersnapper who works for me. That's odd for me, as I've always prided myself on being self-reliant. However, there are only so many hours in the day and one can't know everything. Can one?

I'm off to see the podiatrist today. It's causing an existential crisis, but hopefully I can get these damn bunions fixed.