I was having the usual writer's semi-annual crisis last night: that moment when a rejection letter comes in and you question how it is you ended up where you are. Usually, it's nose deep in ice cream. Sometimes it involves stromboli. This time it was a dark moment at bedtime when the Doubt Monster decided to strike.
The Doubt Monster is a bit of a jerk who, like Pennywise, makes a target of easy prey. (In this case, the downtrodden writer.) It's that intangible voice singing songs of inadequacy. It tells you you can't do that thing you really want to do. It makes mincemeat of confidence or desire to succeed. It keeps us up at night with thoughts of impossibility. At best it leaves its victims with lingering thoughts of, "Maybe I should just sell shoes or something." At worst, a serious case of the Neville Longbottoms.
So as I sat in bed feeling like a mope, I closed my eyes as I often do, said my prayers, and did something out of character. I laid it on the line. I leveled with the Universe. I opened up and had a chat with fate, the future, and the powers that be. It was a one-sided conversation that went like this.
Hey, universe. How's it going? It's me, Melissa. I know you're busy and all but I feel like mold and was hoping you could help me out for a sec. I'm not really sure if I should be doing this anymore, this writing thing. Like, for real. Is it time to get a job at the deli? I just need to know. Not sure I can or should hack it, so any hints you have would be greatly appreciated. Also, good job on the platypus. Everyone makes such a big deal out of how weird they are. I think they're fine. Keep doing you, Universe. 'Night.
At that point I fell off to sleepy land where the Doubt Monster could no longer get me, with a question on my brain and hope that an answer would come by morning.
The Universe Spoke!
Not to get all New Age (too late!), but I woke up to a partial request from a dream agent. True story. You can't make this stuff up.
The lesson here...
I'd much rather listen to the Universe than the Doubt Monster.
When someone asks why I write, the answer is simple. BECAUSE I HAVE TO. In a way I wish I had to do something more practical like constructing actuary tables or I don't know, selling 8 billion dollar houses to moguls, or something really fancy like hedgefunding or competitive eating. Any of these would certainly be more profitable but when faced with it, even now, I'm here- writing. Again. I guess it's because I love it, and when we get down to it, we all do crazy things for love.
I would never give up that wood...
Not for a book I was writing. I wouldn't give up my seat on the bus for a blog. I wouldn't change a song I like on the radio if one of my short stories asked me to. But I am lucky enough to be surrounded by people who love me enough they'd do exactly what Jack did for Rose in Titanic, if you switch out freezing to death in the icy waters of a sinking ship, for sweltering in 98 degree humidity in Paramus, New Jersey.
These lovelies braved the heat and the Parkway to come with me to the Books NJ festival. They were my pit crew and my support. Though it's a fabulous event that supports authors, booksellers, and libraries it might not be the most exciting place to bring two kids on a heatwave blistered Sunday. Have I mentioned the better half isn't much for the heat? It didn't matter. He stood there cooking in the sun anyway.
By the time my panel discussion started I was hot, cranky, and looked like a confused tourist looking for a train. Still my family waited.
I'm glad they did. First off they got to meet Pam Lobley (hilarious), author of Why Can't We Just Play? and Lisa Romeo (brilliant), author of Every Loss Story is a Love Story: The Father Daughter Reunion. Yes, I may be biased but they shared some of their writing secrets and a whole lot of insight about writing memoir that made the day seem less cook-you-alivey and more this-is-pretty-cool-y.
Both of these writers bring passion and honesty to their stories that reminds me why I jump out of the shower sometimes to write down ideas or why in the middle making dinner I mutter things like "you have to kill that" to no one but myself about things that have nothing to do with murder and everything to do with uninteresting subplots.
My family got to hear how much they factor into what I do, not just from me but from the other authors. We writer types are as strongly driven by the ones who love us as we are the words that pull us across the page.
We joked about the proverbial "takeaway" during our panel discussion, that big SO WHAT that gives the reader a warm fuzzy at the end of what they read, justifying the time they've used up with your words when they could've been playing with a guinea pig.
In this case the takeaway is that I'm thankful. It's a rare thing to have the true support of the people you love. They are the reason I do what I do, and try my best to do it well. Like Rose, after Leo became a Jacksicle, I try to make the most of the life they give me.
*My dear Bippie/sister from another mister and her lovely mother also braved the toaster oven of a day to share this event with me. They are represented here by Chino the Magnificent (her guinea pig extraordinaire.)
Thanks for reading!
Ennnn Why Seee...
I went into this day with apprehension. Leaving the girls ever, and I do mean EVER is difficult. On hand I can think of three times in their lives when both my husband and I weren't home with them, this time included. That said, there was even more nervousness thinking this whole thing would be like a giant seventh grade dance, a land of cool kid tables where whispers of, "What's she doing here?" would follow wherever we went. But much to the contrary it was a welcoming experience at every turn. From the smallest to the biggest publishers we were met with camaraderie and support. (Note- the one pickle face I did run into was so exaggeratedly so it was almost comical, like we were on some kind of prank show.) If anything writers, readers, and publishers alike were going out of the way to support each other for the same primary reason. We love books. Yes, money and deals.
But mostly, we love books.
It was magical.
We set up shop at the IBPA booth, armed with "marketing posters" drawn by the littles. There was a small hiccup with my posters so both the girls drew up signs for me to put on the table, and honestly it was the best thing that could have happened. The two of them inspired Iris so much, I wanted them to be with me there, and this way they were. (I wouldn't recommend BookExpo for kids. The things we grownups find exciting...not so much for them.)
The Best Part...
All that love was great but it wasn't the best part.
The best part was sharing something so important with the person I love. It's a surreal moment to have all the things that make your heart swell in the same place while something super awesome is happening at the same time. Honestly, I didn't think anything could ever come close to vacation with my family but as we were walking out of Penn Station, I turned to my husband and said, "This is a Disney World feeling" and he knew exactly what I meant.