I am super proud to announce that Yes! Magazine is using an article I wrote for them to act as the prompt for their annual Student Writing Competition
Seeing this article take on a new life has brought up some old anxiety that is reminding me of all the reasons I have since distanced myself from the project:
1. I got my very own angry stalker. A very nasty man (?) posted repeatedly on my blog using all caps, and words I will never repeat. The same individual sent frequent tweets about how I was a Monsanto plant and that I have a funny-looking nose. Why do I care what that a-hole thinks? I don’t, but the words he chose to express himself were upsetting nonetheless.
2. Numerous publications asked me to write for them – for free. While I don’t mind a little pro-bono work when I believe in a cause, I am also a professional writer, and I simply cannot spend all my time writing for no money. Mostly I just ended up telling them to republish the Yes! article (and a couple others I wrote), and then felt guilty for not doing more to educate people about their food.
3. People started calling me The Monsanto Girl. While a more appropriate title would have been The Nonsanto Girl, it wasn’t the monicker that bothered me so much as the creeping sensation that I would never be known as anything else. If you read my blog, you know that fiction is my true passion.
4. I was misquoted. A lot. Just for the record – the movie Food, Inc. did not inspire the project, the project was not a boycott in the traditional sense (I had no illusions that my not consuming Monsanto products would in any way make the company change its ways), and I am not an activist (at least not by any traditional definition).
5. People got really crazy about equating Monsanto with GMO and held me up as their poster girl. I actually think GMO’s may have a place in our food system, but I also believe that our government doesn’t do nearly enough (anything) to test GMO’s before they are fed to the masses and that scares me.
When I realized I was continually explaining myself and clarifying misconceptions, I decided it was time to take a step back, for the sake of my own sanity. I was in the middle of a very difficult pregnancy at the time, and I needed a little more calm in my life.
The funny thing is, the project has taken on a life of its own. I joined forces with a friend of mine who is very much into food politics, and we started the Digging Deep campaign which now has over 4,000 followers on Facebook. (My “Storyteller” Facebook page
At this point I more or less feel like a traveler who strolled over a hill and happened upon a war. I fought a battle or two, then looked around, decided this was not where I wanted to die and got the ef out of there. I have immense respect and gratitude for everyone who continues to fight the good fight, and if an article I wrote two and half years ago can help spark discussion, well, I am truly honored.
I don’t know what to write. Every time I try I find my head is swamped with work, and kids, and the episode of Game of Thrones that I have recorded but haven’t watched because I’m so desperately tired at the end of the day that I can’t even muster the energy to pour a glass of wine and do the one thing that I want to do just for me.
I’m certainly not writing anything worthy of a blog post. And yet, that is part of being a writer I guess. Is this a dry spell? I’ve never had a dry spell. I don’t believe in writer’s block. I’ve never in my life had trouble knowing what to write. My trouble has always been finding time to write.
And yet, I must admit, I’m not making time because I don’t know what I would write. It’s so much harder to get up at 5am to work when what looms before me is the blank page. Damn you blank page.
I feel like if I could just have a day to write I could figure it out, but I’m just being indulgent. I need to suck it up and get my ass to the kitchen table with my cup of coffee and my laptop and just start writing. Writers write.
And if I’m not writing, what am I? I’m a hack, that’s what, spending my days writing for a communications consulting company. Evey time I tell people “I write for a communications company, but I’m working on a novel,” I just want to vomit. It’s not that I don’t like my job. My job is great (and so is the company, just for the record) and I’m good at it, it’s just, I’m realizing that my image of myself as an author who happens to write newsletters and web content for companies might be a little delusional. If I spend forty hours a week at one thing and five at another, and define myself by the five, am I being honest with myself?
Maybe I’m just in a foul mood. Or maybe I should just let go and embrace my business writing. It certainly pays a lot better than short stories.
It’s been a downright crazy couple of days.
On Friday morning I was up in Napa to act as secretary for a client, taking notes for the organization’s quarterly board meeting. Then, before I really had a chance to take advantage of anything Napa has to offer, I rushed south again to get home in time to put the kiddos to bed, and head out to a party in the Mojave. It’s a yearly event some DJ friends of mine put on, and it was a banner year.
Great music, great friends, even a keg of micro-brew from San Diego, and the moon was just a sliver, which meant the stars were out in a mind-boggling display of lights the likes of which I hadn’t seen in a long time. Rather than go through the trouble of setting up the tent, I did something I’d been wanting to do since we bought our big family-mobile (a Honda Pilot). I flipped the back seats flat and inflated our air mattress so that it filled the space. It was so easy, and so comfortable (when I finally crashed out around 4). I woke briefly to watch the sun rise, then went back to sleep until some rowdy friends with a megaphone woke me around seven, insisting I come dance some more. How could I argue? It was nice to spend some time out in the desert and remember that I chose to set my novel there because I freaking LOVE it.
I left that party early (they go all weekend) to get back home for another friend’s 40th birthday party on Saturday night. It was a costume party where everyone was supposed to dress as a literary character, and folks went all out. I met Nancy Drew, Lenny (from Of Mice and Men), a couple Harry Potters. I went as the Mad Hatter. It was a great crowd (right down to the guy who tweaked the theme a bit to come as David Foster Wallace, who held a copy of Infinite Jest with laminated strips of paper (each with a Wallace quote) sticking out of it, which he invited everyone to chose from) and I had a fabulous time.
I talked a for a long time with a woman who might be the most well-read person I’ve ever met. She was throwing out titles and authors with an ease that had me feeling like a right idiot. Her dad used to interview authors for a living, and I guess she was paying attention from a very young age. It was such a treat to talk books with her. She invited me to join her book club. She said they intentionally choose difficult books, the kind of novels that you have to discuss to truly understand, and they only meet a few times a year, so as to give each other plenty of time to read. I’ll admit, I’m a little intimidated, but I’m also super excited. If their book club is anything like the conversation she and I had Saturday night, it’ll be great.
Yesterday morning I took the kids to the farmer’s market, then plunked them in front of a movie while I took a much needed nap. I’m still trying to catch up, but what is a little sleep derivation compared to a wonderful weekend like that?
After reading my horoscope at the coffee shop on Sunday, and blogging about how I needed to take a step back from the novel, guess what I did. I decided to work on an excerpt of the novel, because somehow in my brain, that seemed completely removed from the novel. I swear, sometimes, I can be really dense.
It’s the same damn thing. I mean literally – the same pages that were making me crazy in the novel, just fewer of them.
My justification was that I had planned on submitting some short pieces to journals, and one of the things I wanted to send out was an excerpt of the novel. It would seem that getting an excerpt published would be a nice thing to put in a cover letter to a potential agent, and I still think that’s true, but when I opened the file and looked at those words, those terribly familiar words, I actually thought I might throw up – right there in the coffee shop.
It was a first for me.
So I pulled up another short story, thinking I just had to look at something else, but by then I think I was having a minor panic attack, because I couldn’t even read the draft. It sucked, everything sucked. Everything I’ve ever written was a piece of shit and I should just give up.
Needless to say I got the hell out of there as fast as I could.
I went home and printed out a few copies of the sucky novel. I’ve given them to a few trusted readers and requested that they not hurry. I need to step away from it for a while. Seriously. I’m not working on the excerpt. I’m not editing the ending. Most of all, I will NOT re-read the first thirty pages, which have been so overworked at this point that they suck more than any other part.
Part of me thinks the past five year were just good practice, for my REAL first novel – the one I will write next. Just let this one go. Like a balloon in the wind.
I’m hoping that, with a little perspective from my readers, I’ll be able to face Tallulah Jones again. I know, somewhere deep down in my heart, that it’s worth saving, even if it actually ends up being my second novel.
I’m giving myself until my birthday (May 7th) to completely ignore it. I’m still writing every day, in my journal, toying with an idea for a story that has been slowly taking shape in my brain for years. I’m really excited about it, and just having that feeling, of loving a story idea, is reminding me why I write in the first place.
File under: writing is hard.
I went to the coffee shop to write yesterday (because I'm a God-less heathen like that), and while I was waiting for my drink, I was watching one of those TVs that coffee shops have now a days. You know the ones, where they flash the latest news, mixed in with bits of trivia and celebrity gossip. Well, this one has horoscopes in the rotation, and when mine came up it said: Taurus, you have been focusing too hard on your goal lately. You must take a step back.
I had to laugh.
I've been making myself nuts over the novel. It's too long, it's too short, it's not good enough. It's done and I should stop obsessing and send it out already. It will never be done, ever. I feel like I can't see the forest for the trees anymore.
Last Wednesday my writing group had to talk me down off a metaphorical ledge. We went out for drinks and they helped me put it all in perspective, but the next morning I was right back to my crazy carousel brain. Round and round.
One thing my friend Amy said stuck with me though. She's a New York transplant and knows a lot of editors and agents and such, and she reminded me that whatever agent I go with will likely have changes they will want me to make, so I shouldn't make myself crazy setting the damn thing in stone. Her advice was to finish this pass, make it as good as I can, and move along in the process of getting it out into the world.
Maybe I just need to take a step back.