“You know the kind of guy that your friends think you shouldn’t hang out with? The kind that makes them demand a just-so-I-know-you-got-home-call? You are the brain equivalent of that; I don’t know if I should be left alone with you.”
For the last few years, I’ve selected a theme word.
Last year the theme was home.
The year before that, the theme was nourish.
This year, the word is routine. A sequence of actions regularly followed; a fixed program.
I like to do a lot of things. I love learning, and I think that a few routines will help me support this. I don’t lose a lot of time in paralysis, wondering which of the things to do next, but I do lose more time that I’d like to in that way.
Also, I’m hoping that some routines will add automaticity to those tasks that need to be tended in an ongoing basis, making them easier.
Upon seeing a book from an African history I took in college in order to fulfill the non-Western, non-European history class requirement, I remembered my experience of being in that class.
In class, I always felt like the professor was looking directly at my breasts. Intently. I felt as if I should learn ventriloquism so that when talking I could make the sound seem like it came from them.
I’m going to tell you this: If someone is looking at your breasts with such commitment that you have the time to consider the gaze before said gaze is over, then there is a problem.
I’m also going to tell you this: A woman with large breasts is aware of the coordinates of any other women with large breasts.
So, when I was walking on campus and I saw the one classmate who had bigger breasts than mine, I knew that I had to catch up to her. I virtually chased her for a bit so that I could talk to her.
I stopped her, mentioned that I was in the African history class with her and then I asked her if the professor stared at her breasts too. I got my answer from her eyes before her words could catch up, and I knew that we shared the experience.
I could also tell that her relief mirrored mine.
“I was thinking weird, funny thoughts when we looked at each other. I think that you were, too. I was thinking about Bernie Sanders; what were you thinking about?”
A while ago, I was a regular attendee of a writing group. That’s what it was in name, and don’t get me wrong, writing was certainly a theme of the group. However, by no means to I believe that everyone was coming to the group for the same reasons. Which is fine. Most groups are like this.
For example, some people came to talk about writing. These are the folks who never brought anything to read, or seldom did, but always wanted to talk about authors and techniques and the things that they read about writing in their research of the topic we’d never see them write much about. Some people rehashed the same story many times over. For some folks the group served as a reason, an incentive to get words on the page on a regular basis. For others, they wanted to exercise some expertise within a group that would accommodate that. There are others and that isn’t the point of what I’m thinking about here.
While there were a variety of reasons people came to the group, there were a variety of particular hangups or stumbling blocks that different people seemed to have. Some could not actually handle criticism. Some people struggled to work on the craft of writing; others found themselves able only to fixate on the nuances of the semicolon but could struggled with developing an engaging story.
This sounds like I’m all against critique groups, or against the group I was a part of for a long period of time. That’s also not what I’m trying to say here. (I sure am taking the scenic route.) I participated in the group because I found it quite valuable for several years as I worked on and completed many projects.
My stumbling block is the submission process. There is just something about it that will make me stop cold in my tracks. Funny thing is that I haven’t even had a wholly negative experience with submitting work. In fact, I’ve even placed in some contests here and there which is pretty good considering that I rarely submit anything.
It just doesn’t make sense. I’ve written quite a bit. Like any writer, some of the work is better than the rest of it. I’ve revised some of it. I’ve had work peer-reviewed. Basically what I tend to do is pick out all of the work that surrounds the submission process and do that, then avoid making the actual submissions.
I found myself thinking of that recently. In working on the book proposal for Head of State Cakes, I asked a couple of author friends to look at the book proposal. Both of these ladies know me well and know that this is where I falter. They understood that much of what I was asking them to do was to help me be accountable to my project, to hold my hand as I traversed the terrain where I consistently trip or quit or tremble in fear.
A couple of nights ago, I decided to send it to them.
That was difficult.
I was working on the thing and I saw myself heading directly toward my well tread patterns. I could feel the words forming in my mouth, the words of procrastination. I was ready to weave them a story about how I wanted to make sure that I made the proposal as close to perfect as I could so that I could be respectful of their time. That classy number would have bought me weeks.
Weeks of cheating myself.
However, I had chosen these ladies wisely. They totally would have called me out on my crap.
After sending the manuscript, I felt both happy with myself that I pushed past where I normally stop, and I felt a ball of anxiety grow within me as illogical thoughts flooded me.
What if the idea isn’t a good one after all? What if that becomes clear when a proposal is read by someone who doesn’t share the burning passion for the presidents that engulfs me? What if it is so bad that they are too embarrassed to speak to me again? What if, what if, what if?
This wasn’t even the reasonable side of me. I believe in my project. I also believe in my friends, and if there is something that needs to be said, these ladies will do it, and I will know that they have told me something that I needed to know.
This wasn’t about real fear about my project itself; this was about vulnerability.
It is difficult to allow oneself to be vulnerable. Considering this, it made me think about the aforementioned assessments about why people attend the writers’ group I used to attend. Now, in the haze a vulnerable moment, I am seeing these other behaviors through that lens. Some of us build a coat of armor consisting of non-tries. Others build a moat of quotes to protect us from possible rejection. After all if someone like Plato or Shakespeare agreed with you, you must be right, right? Perhaps, in this moment, seeing things this way has nudged me toward trying to understand more than diagnose. Perhaps this is the first gain from this submission.
“I am flattered by you. However, I am also a little bothered bothered because each time this idea has been expressed to me, it has come with a distinct, short, time period. You want to spend three and a half hours in my mind….”