Who Invited Them?
If you ask any Golden Girls’ fan, they’ll tell you the best moments, the best episodes, in fact, are those with our fab four gathered around their iconic kitchen table late one night. It’s not ideal for us to be around a table to laugh, eat, and discuss life while we share stories that help us get through the days. But if you’d permit me this indulgence, I’d like you to take a moment to visualize their cozy kitchen (or any kitchen really, theirs is the safest space I can think of). And see us around a table covered with cookies, cheesecake, chips, a side of pork if you like—I never judge a food kink. We’re comfy in our robes, we have our coffee, our tea, or our cannabis.
We’ve been laughing and jovial, but try as we might, we cannot steer our convo away from the topics of the outside world. We all know it’s damn near impossible lately to even say hello without current events being the next topic. Eventually, rolling belly laughs dim into faint chuckles as the memory of the amusing comment fades, and the conversation eases into one of its natural lulls. One of us sighs and another laments about life never returning to normal, and we wonder aloud how we’ll face the challenges ahead of us. I’m itching to be chatty, so when its asked what’s the most challenging aspect of writing now, I jump in:
From the moment we writers pick up a pen and feel it glide along the paper as smooth as figure skater Surya Bonaly zipped across the ice, we’re hooked—okay, yes, maybe for some of you it was a keyboard or a tablet that popped your writer cherry, I’m trying to be poetic dammit. But from that moment there’s no getting off this ride. It’s a deep emphatic love which binds us to the words, and then we’re caught in this gig for the long haul. And truthfully, it’s not fun a lot of the time, even during the best of times being a writer is an arduous trek; the rejection, the crippling self-doubt, that pesky internal Critic always pulling double shifts to make us feel like the absolute worst.
Picture it, during what we can all agree is nowhere near the best of times, I got my first offer from a publisher, my first Yes (goal achieved). A writer’s life is often filled with rejection and harsh critiques, so one develops a proficiency at popping back up like a tweaked-out whack-a-mole hungry for more. Immediately, however, I found myself unsure what happens after the Yes. When does the instant fame kick in? (pimp book here). And I’ll venture to say that it’s not unfamiliar to anyone at this table to get bitch-slapped with a what the hell am I doing? moment so hard it freezes you in place. I was having such a monumental event occur concurrently with a once-in-a-lifetime global issue. The timing was a bit much.
I dove into the final polish of my book but found nothing I wrote seemed good enough, nothing I tried to convey in my writing was coming through. It felt like every character was one-dimensional, every plot device was contrived. Everything was muddled and filtered by the ever-evolving events happening outside in the world. A lot of creative frustrations began showing up to the party, which if you’re a writer, you’re nodding along cause you know. I was hounded by intrusive thoughts. Who’d want to read about the fake horrors I’d concocted when our own true-life horror show played out every day in real-time? Self-doubt weighed heavier than normal, and baby, that threatens the delicate creative ecosystem; listen it takes a certain degree of delusion to keep a writer going (yes, we are going to make it).
Anxieties from the global stuff slogged the creative process. And because the Critic, I guess, was lonely or whatever, they called a friend. And this ‘heffa’, Imposter Syndrome, showed up to tag-team me like no one’s business. It’s not a fun three-way. Plus, the Critic amped up their nonsense past the normal, You’re not good enough shtick, and started hitting on deeper levels: Why publish at all? The oceans are burning and you’re a joke. Who’s going to read you when the world is slowly crumbling around us? It’s a mistake, the publisher is going to email you that they were wrong. You’re a hot mess and everyone’s exhausted. The world’s running out supplies. They’re just going to watch Netflix and chill and ignore your scribbles. The Critic doesn’t play. And Imposter Syndrome, well, that hoe is still trying me; like who am I to ramble on about this for 1500 words?
Feeling extremely low and straddled with a deadline to turn in the final draft, the Yes was not the glamourous champagne popping moment I’d envisioned. I realized everything I’d worked for hinged on what I did next, so you know, no pressure or anything. I could spiral out or step my pussy up as the kids say and forge forward. I spiraled out. Sure, it’s messy, but it’s easier.
It took a minute, longer than I’ll admit, to realize I’d lost my creative equilibrium because I’d lost faith in my creative self. I’d gotten a yes; I was getting published and still didn’t believe I’d earned it. Nonsense really, as it’s since come out and been a huge hit (remember…delusion). A hard lesson along any healing journey is learning to trust the Universe, or your Higher Power of choice of course, but even more so, yourself—your intuition, your gut.
My healing story intersects with my creative one here, so, we’re going to get spiritual for a moment. But don’t worry, I’ll keep it lowkey, not really my vibe to preach about aligning chakras and waving crystals around like a loon—though meditation would save the world if we gave it a chance.
Despite the negativity in my head, the pulsing madness of the world, I focused my meditations on my creative self, and it took a minute, but I realized I was where I was supposed to be. Regardless of the outside world, I knew my book, the story I wanted to tell, did have a place in the world. That there was something to say even in a sea of loud voices. I trusted I had everything I needed to move forward, that I was safe as could be, considering. And my Yes, wasn’t a giant fluke they were going to take away. I did affirmations solely about rising above the self-doubt and defeating the Critic. They won’t ever be fully gone, they’re like a bad horror franchise, they keep coming back—but you can shut them up for a while. And I’d love to tell you I did the affirmations every day for months in an impressive, even inspiring display of tenacity, but no. And that’s okay, and I’ll continue to tell myself and you that.
I found assisting the other writers in my life with their own creative path helped my own creative confidence. I mean, that’s not groundbreaking stuff as any soul in recovery will tell you helping others and stepping out of self, helps them remain sober. I like to believe that idea applies to writing as well since my own words were flowing again. And the more I flowed with the Universe, the clearer they appeared. We, as a collective, experienced several rapid life-altering changes in a microsecond’s worth of time, learning to simply flow with those changes helped (still helps) me get through the mess. We can’t control what’s happening in the rooms we aren’t ever going to be invited into, try to not let it consume you. I know, easier said than done, but maybe it’ll help.
There was more of course: Journaling, physical exercise, seventeen broken vows to quit and go do anything else, three and a half mental breakdowns under my desk, but that’s all the boring stuff. The hardest part of regaining my equilibrium was remembering to trust in my creative self despite the Critic and Imposter Syndrome; they’re just noise in that complex and mysterious grey matter floating within our skulls, so why are we even listening to them? Why do we have to be reminded to not listen is what makes me scratch my head. And it can be hard to remember they aren’t the truth. I was in a whole other headspace when I turned in the final draft; my creative ecosystem balanced with all the functional delusions back in their place (we are going to make it). I felt confident and knew my novel would carve out its place in the world, that its message, though wrapped in blood and gore, would seep through. That hopefully it would become someone’s favorite book. I felt pretty good sending the final draft off, and when I got another Yes from my publisher for a second book, I knew I was where I was supposed to be. I mean, of course, I repeated everything I described to you all over again, but this time it didn’t take so long, and I got this round down to only two meltdowns and ten broken vows that I was done with writing, so, yeah…progress.