Here is how it goes down. This time is was not Jeffrey Euginides but rather Liane Moriarty, an Australian NY Times-bestselling author and in this particular case, a hardback copy of her newest title “Big Little Lies.”
It was not the sort of book I would have selected for myself. But my new boyfriend’s mom had given it to me for Christmas (she gives each of her children and their significant others books for Christmas). In truth, I started it just to be polite and because my new Euginides books hadn’t arrived at the library yet. But then, it caught me; it dragged me in and I realized that it wasn’t just your usual murder mystery (which was, I’m ashamed to say my initial assessment). It was so much more, and so expertly crafted. You didn’t even know who was dead until the final pages, let alone who to blame. I kept thinking, “This was so well done. So smart. Why can’t I write like this???”
My recent trip to Planned Parenthood came to mind. When the nurse practitioner asked what I do for a living as part of the requisite annual exam questioning, she seemed quite shocked. “When do you sleep?” she asked. I just chuckled, too embarrassed to admit that actually, yes, I am tired ALL. THE. TIME.
Then I thought about my wall calendar. This year, I’ve been tracking how many hours I spend each day on writing, breaking it all down into color coded categories: journaling, blogging, freelance work, website stuff, social media, editing my current novel, drafting new ones, and so on.
It helps me in some ways; I feel more accountable and I can see, even though I feel completely overwhelmed at times, that I am making progress (even if I have so many projects going on at once that I never seem to finish any of them). But it also makes me feel guilty. I fall short so often. Because I’m not just writing. I’m renovating a house, I’m teaching two college courses, I’m choreographing competition routines, I’m trying to maintain a somewhat active social life.
So I headed over to The Write Life, which is a great blog for writers with a ton of fabulous resources on everything from craft to the nitty gritty of streamlining your invoices. There’s an article called 7 Free Tools to Organize and Prioritize Your Writing Life (a certain someone has been trying to tell me about #1 for the past few weeks) but it’s not the one I’m looking for. I want the one about setting goals and making yourself accountable. The one that starts out “Have you found yourself feeling rudderless with your writing?” because YES. Yes I am.
But even as I read, I realize that I need something more. I need help. I need someone who knows how to look at a situation and to pinpoint exactly what’s working and what’s not. I need someone who can be objective, who can help me figure out where I’m going wrong because I don’t want to spend the rest of my life reading great books and hating their authors. I want to join their ranks.
The idea comes to me slowly, half formed and frightening. Asking him to help, you see, would be to admit that actually, contrary to popular opinion, I don’t have it all together, that I don’t do a good job of managing myself. Plus, I’ve always had this stubborn streak, this I’m-gonna-do-this-on-my-own streak. I ignore the assistance that’s on offer (and Lord knows my mother has offered a million and one times) because I feel like I need to do this on my own.
But, as my old college roommate has recently become so fond of saying, if you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’re gonna keep getting what you’ve always got.
So I make myself a promise before going to bed: I am going to ask him. Tomorrow night, when we’re out to dinner, I’m going to ask him for help. I won’t, for the sake of his privacy, tell you what he does for a living but I will say this: he is the perfect man for the job.
The next morning, I wake up and check my email. I’m feeling a bit nervous—asking for help isn’t my forte— but I’m still going to give it a shot. After all, this is something new, this is something I haven’t tried before, this, just maybe, is what I need.
And there they are: two emails from the man himself. Two completely unsolicited emails about writing, about resources, about seminars, about stuff he’s found on Living Social and thought might be helpful.
I burst into tears.
I didn’t even ask yet.
PS: A quick note to my mother, since I know she’ll be reading this and thinking, “What??? I’ve sent you a million emails over the years! I’ve offered to pay for you to take those courses!!!” Yes. You have. I know, and I am here to publically admit that I pretty much bit your head off every time. I’m sorry. I just wasn’t ready yet. And, as I’m sure you know, it’s much easier to have these sorts of conversations with your partner than with your parents, because then you feel like less of an idiot kid who can’t get her life together and more like a capable adult who is, for the first time in her life, making some truly good decisions.