We gather in someone’s living room on the third Wednesday of every month. Laurel. Charlene. Kim. Lexi. Rina. The members of my writing group.
In May, Laurel hosts. I take a seat on the floor, cross-legged beside her coffee table. I’ve brought along my bag of things that make me legitimate. Two half-filled notebooks. A sharpened pencil. One old memoir that needs overhauling.
I’m eager to be seen tonight, heard by kindred spirits who know what it means to face blank pages. Nowhere else am I surrounded by people who so deeply understand this part of my interior life:
The hopes and disappointments. The thrill that accompanies a small success.
We set fresh goals and admit where we have fallen short. But look at what you have accomplished, we point out. It is something. You created something.
We commiserate. We meditate. Complete writing prompts and share the resulting pieces out loud. Each month, the topic is random. Tonight’s is the following:
“List Ten Reasons Why You Should Not Write Your Life’s Story.”
My gut twists. I’ve grown weary of list-style essays, of posts with titles featuring numbers.
Seven Secrets of a Summer Slacker.
Fourteen Clues You’re the Mother of Boys.
Twenty One Questions to Ask Your Tween Daughter.
The appeal of these posts is obvious, with their easily-digestible advice, white space, cute photos. They are short, often clever, and oh-so pinnable. But my issues are too complicated for a simple list. And I don’t have a Pinterest account.
I remain (singularly, it seems) dispinterested.
Tempted to compose Forty Two Clues You Might Be A Dinosaur, I tackle the assigned prompt. Longhand. In my notebook. With a No. 2 pencil.
Before our meeting, I receive a critique of my most recent manuscript from another friend.
“I knew while I was reading what kind of mindset you’ve been in. This story was sad. Sad sad sad,” she told me. “And then, a little more sad.”
I do not want to be sad.
But lately, when I’m excavating words (digging deep, aiming for authentic) what I dust off is dark. All around me, people are suffering and their pain takes its toll.
“How can I help?” I ask, although I feel completely helpless. What can I offer besides my love? What good does “love” do when someone is unemployed or sick or hurt beyond repair?
List Ten People You Care About Who Are Struggling.
Ten may not be enough.
The next day, I sit at the computer in my sweatpants, a bowl of oatmeal in my lap. Jack and Karly are almost done with another school year and I must revise my sad, sad story.
Distracting me are these thoughts: Time is short. I am lucky. There are big dreams still to achieve. More sentences to write and paragraphs. Chapters. Entire manuscripts. Then query letters. Synopses. My mind races but I am paralyzed.
If I do nothing, I cannot be rejected.
Failure by default.
Eight Signs You Are Ready to Quit!
I step away and fold the laundry.
On Saturday, I attend a graduation party for the son of a lifelong friend. Soon, he’ll be off to college. It’s a time of great joy and nostalgia. Celebrating with the graduate are his proud parents, other family members and friends.
Smiles abound. Smalltalk and hugs. Reminders that life is good.
Monday, procrastinating at my computer, I’m wearing sweatpants again and eating a sandwich. On Facebook, yet more lists. I cannot find a blog post that isn’t numbered. What am I doing here?
Do I even belong?
Will I ever be worthy?
In my head, my own list now. It is brief and to the point.
Five Strategies For Julie:
I set down my sandwich and get to work.