Write Drunk, Edit Sober
It’s hard to believe this year is almost at the Fall stage. Something about the leaves falling and the air changing makes me feel like I’m waking up after a long, sticky nap (but jk jk because it’s like 100 degrees in California and all I can do is hide indoors with my wine-colored lipstick/ Pumpkin Spice latte and hiss like a vampire at the nice people BBQing at the pool in September).
Anyway. I’ve been thinking a lot about this year. Namely, what the heck happened to me this summer? This summer my writing time disappeared, stolen away by a life that had other plans. But something else happened – something I will always be thankful for. Something I want you all to look out for, because it’s a blessing in disguise.
Gather ‘round, and let me tell you a tale of woe.
So last May, I graduated with my Masters. And the day before my graduation, I was offered my DREAM JOB.
It was everything I’d hoped. A salary? Benefits? Also, I got to work with movies. When they called me and hired me, I fell to the ground outside my parent’s condo and cried.
I had a job. A big girl job. And it wasn’t going to change my writing time! It was so perfect. I was on my way. Look out, world!
This is the part where I stop, unsure if I should go on record here.
Eh, what the heck.
It was terrible. The hours, which were supposed to set, started flexing late into the evening, making it so that I missed evening walks with my daughter and dinners with my family.
And then in the morning, which is my writing time. With a buzz of my phone, my time to write was snatched.
Here is what happens when you’re a writer and you don’t write:
Life coils in on itself. Ash gathers in the tips of your fingers, and the color drains from your eyes. People wonder what’s wrong with you because you’re standing in front of the open fridge door, eating brownies from a tin at midnight because you just figured out a plot point but know you will have no time to write it.
That last one might be uniquely me.
In between being angry about it, something interesting happened.
My characters showed up.
This is the part where your smile falters as you read this because oh no I thought this was going to be good but she’s just nuts.
Hear me out.
I couldn’t ignore them. Walking on the studio lot, I’d imagine them everywhere. I’d see him, leading her by the hand as they ran by me and stole a golf cart. I’d see others sitting in a coffee shop, cracking up in the way I know they would at the jokes I know they’d think were funny.
As this job reached out and yanked me forward and then, okay, dragged me – I cried because I was so convinced that Writer had fallen out of my pocket and been kicked in the gutter.
But it was there, drinking a beer after a long day, or driving home in terrible traffic that I realized I could never not feel my stories around me.
The fire burned even when no one tended to it.
If you can help it, never leave your writing. As Stephen King says in On Writing:
“Once I start work on a project, I don’t stop or slow down unless I absolutely have to. If I don’t write every day, the characters start to stale off in my mind – they begin to seem like characters instead of real people. The tale’s narrative cutting edge starts to rust and I begin to lose my hold on the story’s plot and pace. Worst of all, the excitement of spinning something new begins to fade.”
However. Life happens. And when it happened to me, I thought I would emerge stagnant, looking around like what even is writing I can’t remember how to word anymore.
But if you’re a writer, you’ll know. You’ll know because it will not leave you alone. And I needed to know that in those dark moments.
I lasted two months at that job. Quitting was the scariest thing I’ve done in a while (and I mean that on an adult level – catching a spider in a cup and trying to set it free still takes that cake on a life level). But I was tired of my family getting the scraps of me, and I missed my writing. More than that, my family missed the me that was writing. The me that writes is the best me there is. So, in the middle of a very awkward meeting, I straightened my spine, whispered a prayer asking that I wasn’t making a huge mistake, and resigned.
And, thank God, I had another job within a week. I’m still there. The hours are lovely, and they never text me at 6AM to tell me my morning just disappeared because some executive snapped his fingers. It’s still a job, though, and it’s not writing. I wake up, do the words, go to work, go home, and do more words.
The amazing thing is that what happened this summer, born of self-preservation and grace, hasn’t left. Walking to my lunch break, I feel like I can hear my main character’s voice in my head. When I realize someone is sitting on my favorite bench by the fountain, I hear it even more, because she’s the type that would sit and glare until they left.
We’ll get back to the Rejection Games, Pt. II in two weeks. I just felt like I had to tell you this important thing. Writing makes you a writer. I know this, especially having worked in an industry where many call themselves writers but have nothing to show for it. But life happens, and sometimes the words can’t come no matter how much you need them to. Pay attention when that happens. If writing is in your blood, it will be there. Even if it’s just scribbled in the margins of meeting notes.