I spent the weekend surrounded by books because I can’t seem to get out of my own head. Immersing myself in another person’s problems seemed like it would be or could be a cure-all. It wasn’t. Still, I spent Saturday beneath blankets and books as the stormy weather turned the streets into lakes, the foothills into white mounds. Actual snow. In Southern California.
“It looks like Colorado out there.” I overheard a man say to the barista later that afternoon after I dragged myself out from under the covers and into a crowded coffee shop. Everyone huddled inside while the outdoor tables lay in puddles, tipped over from the wind. The man stirred sugar into his coffee with a wooden stick and made small talk about the weather. My own thoughts became louder. I searched for a table in the corner, nestled myself up against a brick wall.
I’m beginning to write my second book, and I think this is where the mind chatter is coming from. I’ve been jotting down ideas in my notes app whenever they trickle out, which is becoming more frequent. I type them down while sitting in the parked car outside my apartment, the grocery store, the gym. Sometimes I use the voice app; other times I just peck at the screen in silence.
If I’ve learned anything as a writer, it’s that I won’t remember something even if I tell myself I will. The thoughts are too fast and fleeting. Even if I repeat them to myself, using old memorization tricks from spelling bee prep and Sunday school scriptures, I forget it all when I sit at my desk a few days, or even hours, later. Gone.
Elizabeth Gilbert says something about this in Big Magic, writing,
“Ideas spend eternity swirling around us, searching for available and willing human partners...The idea will try to wave you down (perhaps for a few moments; perhaps for a few months; perhaps even for a few years), but when it finally realises that you’re oblivious to its message, it will move on to someone else.”
And so I write on my phone, if not to capture the ideas than to get them out. The book is scary to think about. My first memoir didn’t sell. And I didn’t finish writing it because of this. My agent signed me after reading one chapter and suggested we try to sell the book on proposal alone. My attention became fixated on outlines instead of the actual writing. Rather than tell a story, I focused on the bones. And the bones were brittle and weak, looking back at it. The story didn’t make sense. It was just a bunch of words. No anchor.
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I’m glad the book didn’t sell. It feels like a place of growth to be able to say that. It wasn’t meant to live, at least not in that form. The process sucked everything out of me. Living the past in loop for more than three years while trying to convince editors to give you a chance is exhausting. I gave up. Something I said I’d never do. But I didn't feel sad when I finally released myself from the project. Only free.
I think my mind keeps racing because of this new story. My body is too full. The words need to come out, even if only to release the grip on my mind. Stories, like feelings, are alive and breathing and in need of a home. Perhaps that is what creating truly is. Maybe that is what being human is too. We need to release regularly, to let everything out, whether in art or tears or stories. Whether through sweat and dance, paint or play.
Move the ideas out and through. Release the feelings. A good friend reminds me of this. Otherwise, you get all clogged up.
And so I’m writing a book, again. It’s new and different and scary and exhilarating. My insides feel exposed, my guts dripping on the table. I love every bit of it. Having a new creative project is like having something delicious and juicy to bite into after years of sucking on saltine crackers.
Of course, this isn’t really about that. The book is simply an avenue, a way to release the feelings and make sense of the fullness. Because we can get so dammed up. Creatives and feeling-people alike, we get so heavy it feels like we’ll sink forever without release. And sometimes we do unless we stop it. Unless we spill it all out onto the floor for everyone to see, or for no one to see. You get to choose.
I picked up Meagan O’Connell’s memoir from the library last week and read through half of it in one sitting. Now I’m intentionally savoring the rest because I don’t want it to be over.
This beautiful devotion on stillness by Tara Monjazeb of
A moody song for winter nights when you’d rather sit at home:
Thanks for sharing the story about your first book. I wrote a memoir + queried in 2020 which was bad timing. I never was able to get anyone to get behind the book despite having praise + encouragement from agents. It was always like, “This is really good, but I can’t sell it right now.” So it just sits in my closet, doing nothing. I’ve been so discouraged over the past two years to even keep writing books but I’ve been working on the bones of a novel lately. It’s scary and difficult but I’m doing it. Trying at least. I hope your book comes to you with ease and that it brings you what you need.
This. So much this. I also feel the anxiety of having too many words stuck in my body along with knowing that I don't have the time (damn "real job"!) right now to let them out. I've fought the urge to journal for years, not wanting to subscribe to the novelty of it. But maybe I need to just find a notebook and put the pen to the paper. Thank you for your writing.