Tag Archives: writing life

Are You There Blog? It’s Me, Wendy

WendyFunny thing happened this summer. I died.

It didn’t happen suddenly. It was a slow death I should have seen coming. A series of events, one after the other, that combined to take me away, piece by piece.

It started when I went to Massachusetts with Lucas and left my husband behind for 10 days. Despite being on vacation, a feeling of unrest followed me throughout my stay. No partner to tag in when Lucas worked my last nerve. No warm smile to share across the table.

Then I came home to California and left my son back in Massachusetts with my mom for 12 days. I knew he was having the time of my life, so that kept me going. But a week went by without my child. Then almost two. Without him, the world stood too still. The house was too clean. I felt nothing inside of me stirring. I tread water, barely keeping my head, as waves of loneliness washed over me. I felt myself fading.

During that time, I ran out of the painkillers that I rely on to deal with chronic back pain. I went two and a half weeks without them, powering through just-under-the-skin raw inflammation and bone deep dull joint pain. I had been tested emotionally—now it was time for the physical. My head dipped below the water but I fought to stay afloat.

Then I managed to return to what felt like a hostile work environment—one that threatened to swallow me whole. A particularly hellish two weeks tested my capacity to handle challenges with grace and fortitude. I drowned in work and stress reached a fever pitch.

Then something happened that killed me dead. I’m a writer by profession, but despite cranking out hundreds of words a day, I  stopped writing.

This whole time, I haven’t been me. I’ve either had too much or too little. And my blog, this microcosm of me, has sat at the back of my mind like a tiny nuisance, a phantom hair tickling my arm. How could I write for fun when I had nothing important or funny to say? When my heart was in two different places or my body was exhausted from fighting back pain or my brain was spent from juggling copywriting and product updates and work politics and board of director bios?

A week went by without writing for fun. Then two. Then a month. I thought about giving it up for good. After all, it would be one less thing I’d have to worry about. It made all kinds of logical, practical sense. Why am I even doing this, anyway?

Then I took a huge, gasping breath and felt my heart beat in my ribcage again. It’s faint, but it’s there.

Some things happened this summer that made me forget who I am and what I want. They weren’t big things, which is why I couldn’t tap into grief or anger or frustration or any kind of identifiable emotion that I could capture here on this blog. Little things that conspired to make me give up on my creative pursuits. To doubt in my ability to do or be something more than I already am. I knew I wasn’t content. But for the first time, I was purposefully not pressing forward.

And to me, that might as well be dead. So I’ll keep trying, even though it feels like trudging backwards and in heels through molasses. I’ll put words on this blog, if only to remind myself that I’ve got to find something else left.

My family is back together. My prescription for painkillers has been refilled, and relief is here. Work continues to be stressful, but the worst of it seems to have let up (for now). All is not right with the world, but I’ve got to make it right.

And the first step is talking to you, dear blog. Are you there? It’s me. Wendy.

Does Anyone Know How to Write a Book?

I’ve been a writer for a long time. I published my first article back in 2001, so it’s been 13 years as a professional. But it stretches back much longer than that. Because anyone who writes is a writer. And I’ve been doing this since I was 8 years old.

I once had a diary that I poured my heart into, including my frustrations with my cousin who lived with me and my parents at the time. My cousin discovered my less-than-complimentary remarks about her in the diary and was, understandably, furious. I went back and scratched out the pages where I was mad and spent the rest of the diary saying nice things about her, even though I was still a little frustrated. Basically, the rest of that diary became a lie, or at the very least, a series of omitted truths. The diary soon lost its appeal and I stopped writing in it.

A couple years later, deep into my obsession with the New Kids on the Block, I wrote an entire book—200-something pages—all about my adventures with the band. I discovered it later as a teenager, deep into my obsession with Nirvana, and was so embarrassed that I erased it all, page for page.

Around the same time, I started a secret novel about a girl named Jordan Byer who had a crush on a boy who didn’t see her as anything more than just a friend. I actually don’t remember much about the plot of this book—I’m not even sure there was one except for the end goal of getting Jordan and the boy together. One day, my mom turned to me and wondered what was going to happen next with Jordan and I was appalled. SHE WAS READING MY NOTEBOOKS?! THAT WAS PRIVATE! I promptly threw them out.

hip hop book
My next book will be nothing like my last one.

And that’s the last time I attempted to write anything resembling a real book. I’ve written 12 books and published them, oh yes. But they were children’s nonfiction books on dance, and the company that hired me to write them gave me very clear guidelines. It was hard work, of course, but it was work that was cut out for me.

Now I’m trying to write a book again and I’ll be the first to admit: I have no freaking idea what I’m doing. I’m fighting every impulse to scratch it out, erase it, throw it away, like I did my old ones. I go back and read what I’ve started and all I can think is NOPE. This is shit.

Which is why I need to keep going. And it’s also why I’m throwing this question out into the universe: Does ANYONE know how to write a book? If you do, can you tell me how?

My guess is that, basically, it comes down to seeing it through. Just keep swimming. Just keep writing. Don’t second-guess. Think hard about what you want to write, but don’t shut yourself down. All ideas are terrible, awful ideas at the start. All first drafts are terrible, awful pieces of crap. At least, that’s what I’m going to tell myself in order to keep going. And I will keep going. I will not omit truths. I will reach down deep into the painful places and I’ll get it all out. I won’t erase. And if nothing else comes of it, I will have the satisfaction of having seen it through. It’s been a long time coming.