Taking charge of myself
A few months ago I took on the insane project of writing a book. This is not an easy task. Being a writer is not romantic. It’s hard work.
I got stuck.
Instead of giving up, I hired a writing coach. She is awesome. She is also the author and photographer over here at the Mt. Tam 365 blog. My coach gave me some assignments to help get things flowing again. One of the assignments was to read Anne Lamott’s book called Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. Following their instructions I have started letting my writing flow more by writing my “shitty first draft” what Anne Lamott calls your first draft. To write like no one is reading. That is what I have been doing and my writing has been flowing.
I’ve also been spending some time reflecting on why my writing has taken so long to flow, as in 41 years. I’ve always wanted to write but I never really put myself out there until I started this blog. Below is one of the reasons I never made it as a writer, take a close look at the certificate I was awarded from the UC Irvine Newspaper, the NewU.
When I was 20 years old I transferred from the local community college to UC Irvine to get my bachelors degree in Social Ecology. This was a big deal for me.
Instead of living in the dorms I found a super cool beach rental on Balboa Island which I shared with 3 other roommates. It was actually cheaper than living in a dorm. The problem was, 2 of my roommates were guys and within weeks of moving in I fell for one of them. ‘If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one your with’ is the song that comes to mind when I think of this relationship. I’ll save that story for another day. What I found myself in at the age of 20 was a relationship on fast forward. We were already living together before our first date, so much for my young, carefree, college years.
Looking back this was not the best move for my own autonomy and self growth. Suddenly I was in a very grown up relationship. My thriving successful self started to disappear behind this new boyfriend. I became his support, you know the saying “behind every successful man is a great woman” well I was THAT woman. I kid you not, I won that award from UC Irvine’s official Newspaper as “the most tolerant NewU girlfriend” while he won awards for writing. You know what really sucks about this is I am the one who wanted to write for the newspaper!
When I was still feeling like I could conquer the world in the beginning days of UCI, I was the brave one who went up to the newspaper office all by myself and said I wanted to write a story. I wanted to be a journalist. The editor welcomed me and gave me my 1st assignment which was to write about the Greek sorority system at UCI. I was excited about my story. I came home and told new boyfriend. He immediately wanted to work for the newspaper too and we talked about how we could be journalist together. The next day I took him to the NewU office and introduced him to the editor. They hit it off. Boyfriend got assigned a story writing about the treatment of the gardeners at UCI. He spoke Spanish so he had an ‘in’ with the workers.
I am not sure what happened over the next few weeks but his story became bigger than life and mine felt meaningless and stupid. I started feeling inadequate next to him and decided there was only room for one journalist in our household and that would be him. I couldn’t compete. I just faded away and never wrote my story. I also never showed my face at the NewU office for awhile out of shame. I finally had to when boyfriend got offered a staff position there, I had to be brave and show my face and apologize to the editor for being such a flake. I was too embarrassed to explain what had happened and why I had not written the story. At this point I was also too ashamed to ask for another chance even though I so badly wanted to write for the paper and have my voice heard.
By the way, boyfriend’s story ran on the front page of the paper and went on to win awards. He got so in to his work at the NewU he ended up having to work late there on Friday nights. His old car broke down and did not run so he was depending on me and the bus system to get him around. The buses did not run late on Friday nights so I became his chauffeur. In usual Sally fashion I worked my life around his and put his needs first. He has gone on to write numerous features and articles for national magazines and last I checked has published two successful books.
I am not telling you this story to blame boyfriend for my lack of success. It’s more a realization that it is finally time to put myself first. This has been the biggest challenge for me in writing, finding time to write, putting my writing before everyone else’s needs is harder than the actual writing. I’m going to hang this certificate on the wall as a reminder to focus on myself and my writing because I really don’t need any more best supporting wife/girlfriend/stepmom/friend awards. I’m going for the Emmy in life!
I figured independence day was an appropriate day to write this post. Happy 4th!
- Marin Moms
- Calling all Other Mothers
Happy Independence Day, Sally! How cool to declare today as your BIG bold step into what’s been 30+ years waiting for you. I’ve read Bird by Bird and found it to be an excellent catalyst for my writings. See, I’m a closet writer, too. I’ve been venturing out more and more with my blog and doing some guest blogging but I write much that never makes it any further than my computer or spiral notebook. Keep writing. Keep stretching…because we want to read what you have to say.
Hi Sally! Amazing post. Thanks for sharing your story. I’m excited for you that you are writing. Natalie Goldberg is another great writer about writing. Writing Down The Bones (pretty sure that is the title) is her book. And, she has written others. I’m a frustrated wannabe writer too. So glad blogging gives me a chance to get my voice out there.
One day at a time….
Thank you Ruth & Cathy. Happy to see all the writers coming out of the closet! Keep writing the world needs us!
Thanks for sharing this interesting story with us! It’s always nice to learn about Sally’s history. 🙂 I’m so excited for you and your book! By the way, I have a copy of Writing Down the Bones, if you’d like to borrow it.
A great “independence day” post that is definitely putting you on track for the Emmy of your life. It’s almost mind-boggling to see that the university paper handed out such demeaning certificates not so long ago. From your story it is clear that it wasn’t just your wish to support the “boyfriend” that wore away your enthusiasm for journalism, but also, the paper itself had a culture of shredding that desire into bits. Luckily for us, neither the boyfriend nor the paper could do anything to eclipse your talent 🙂
And thanks so much for the mention in your post. You are so on your way to writing that book — the fist of your books! 🙂 It’s time you had the support, and I am glad I can help with that.
[Forgive typos and meanderings… writing this from the airplane in a bit of turbulence]
I think the certificate was actually well meaning… in they couldn’t believe I put up with so much crap and they were trying to recognize that in a fun way. However looking back, this certificate is a huge statement on my life and the choices I have made.
Way to go, Sally! I can not tell you how long it took me to stop washing other boys laundry and cleaning up after them to be able to let go, and paint like the wind. Take care of you, and enjoy every, well-deserved minute! 🙂
This story took me straight to owie-town because I have an old residence in pretty much the same neighborhood so reading this made me bitter all over again, but just for a minute, because I’m doing what I love and no former boyfriend will ever be able to find someone as amazing, supportive, and driven as I was. No matter how much I wished it for each one of them. (I’m not hateful and bitter, just bitter LOL)
You definitely have the gift of writing. Such a great Independence Day declaration…. be your own bff!
Thank you! You are all awesome!