that thing we must do
I’ve been away from this site for a while. I guess you could say I’ve been hiding. I do this sometimes, especially when I am in the Land of the Unknown, betwixt and between projects. I just crawl in the back of my proverbial closet and wait for something to happen. And when that something doesn’t happen and I realize I have to make something happen, I crawl back out, blinking into the sunlight of my life again.
The few of you kind folks who read my stuff have asked me where I’ve been. Well, I’ve been applying for grants. This is how I hide. I find something to do that is concrete, that has parameters and a due date and an email address telling me where to send it when I am done. I can do these things. I am good at following directions. I am good at being anal retentive with my work. I am good at making sure I use the right font and size and accurate margins.
I am not good at beginnings. And I don’t think I am alone.
Beginnings are hard. Especially when it is me, my vision, my computer, and the birds chirping outside my window. No one telling me I need to have the first 30 pages written by Tuesday; that I have to have a rough draft by June; that I need to send it to so-and-so at such-and-such an address. Nope. It’s just me. And no one but me gives a rat’s ass if I begin or stay hidden in grant applications for the rest of my life.
There is a book I’ve wanted to write for a long time. It is contained within the stack of journals from 1996, the year I took a sojourn to Australia with a backpack, $500 cash in the back pocket of my Levi’s, and no plans. The problem is, I still haven’t sold the last book I wrote, a book that took me seven years to write. This is a problem because it is difficult to put thousands of hours and all of my heart into a book that may never see the light of publication. To have friends and family ask year after year, “How’s your book coming along?” until they just stop asking because it’s been so damn long. It gets embarrassing.
What if? What if nothing comes of the book I’ve written or any other book after that? When I sat myself down and asked myself this question, I realized that my deepest aspiration was never to publish a book. That was and is the hope, but not the aspiration. The aspiration was and is to write books. To see if I can. To try. To engage in the art of putting one word in front of the other to create something of which I am proud.
I completed the third grant application at 1:00am the night before our family trip to Mexico. It felt like an exhale to finally send that sucker off. I was excited to clear the desk in my head so I could finally begin this whole 1996 project that I’ve wanted to begin for months. The week we were gone, I enjoyed the space in my head, like being in college between semesters when finals are all done and I get to start fresh again.
In the airport on our way home, I was looking at my phone and my husband Paul asked me what I was doing. I told him I was looking into the MFA program at the University of Minnesota. “Why?” he asked. “So that I can write my book and I’ll be surrounded by a community of writers. I think it will help me.”
“Jesus Janna. You keep distracting yourself. Write the book. For god’s sake, just write the book.”
He’s right. Instead of distracting ourselves, procrastinating and hiding from the things we really want to do in this one, very short, precious life, we need to sit down and just do that thing we need to do. For me right now, it’s to write this book.
What is it for you?