Today I did something I haven’t done in awhile. I submitted my writing for publication.
It’s another thing that I’ve put on hold for so long because of my writing name worries. I was in utter paralysis about my work because of it. I still submitted worked occasionally (like, once or twice a year), some under Emilia Jordan, some under my real name, and worried how it would complicate things if anything ever got accepted under either name.
But I’m ready to move forward again. Over the last couple of months, I did deep revisions on two of my personal essays, “Reasonable Doubt” and “Distant Light.” These are the two essays that felt the closest to publishable, and though I’d put off revising them for awhile, sometimes years, because it felt so daunting, I finally undertook revising both of them (thanks quarantine?) and got both to a place where I felt they were ready to be sent out.
Here it is, the final installment in this trilogy of posts about a recent crazy creative journey (Read Part 1 – The High and Part 2 – Coming Down here) of writing a crazy screenplay called (for now anyway) Sweet Acid. Not that the journey of writing this screenplay is over–I still have tons of editing to do, and then need to figure out what I want to do with it–but that the crazy emotional creativity roller coaster has subsided.
And as for what got me back to normal? It’s nothing shocking. I think just about every working writer or artist or creative person in any field has said this. The cure for all that insane intensity–the good, the bad, the swinging between the extremes–is to keep doing the work.
And in a certain way, it’s still there. I’m still excited about the project and had a great time talking about it yesterday with the friend who my character Lenne is based on. But I also experienced the other side of the creative process, the doubt and self-loathing, the coming down off the drug-like high of creating.
The crash came along with writing the end of the first draft of the screenplay. Maybe it was just the fact that the initial mad dash creative side of the project was over. All of a sudden, I didn’t feel excited about this project so much as terrified.
Holy fucking roller coaster, Batman. And the ride isn’t over.
The last two weeks have been a completely new kind of writing experience for me. It feels a little weird to be able to say that at 33 years old, especially considering I was writing little stories since, like, first grade. But it’s true.
It was so intense. It felt kinda like how I imagine being manic might feel. It felt like being in love. It felt like being on reeeeeeeally good drugs. It was all rushing and inspiration and not being able to sleep and waking up early with ideas and thoughts of how to work parts of it together. And it was a lot, lot, lot of writing.
Here’s what happened. For my university, there is a requirement called a senior capstone. I’ve resisted it as long as I could, putting it off term after term, imagining the anonymous diatribes I wanted to write against the requirement in the school paper as if that could somehow exempt me from having to take a capstone class. But this winter, I had to sign up, so I picked Research Experience for Science Majors, hoping to, you know, get some research experience.
But as challenges go, it was relatively okay for the first chapter. A lot of work, yes. Lots of stitching together, inserting, deleting, writing new material, actually getting clearer on memories of the time that I’d forgotten and writing those in, shifting focus, bringing in more background. It took a lot of time and energy but it was fairly pleasant.
Then I got to Chapter Two, and that was more like…well, a clusterfuck.
So many things have me revisiting my musical past as of late. It’s really kind of odd how so many things converged at once. Sometimes I feel like, for whatever reason, I just really let music slip away for awhile, and over the last month, a switch has flipped and all of a sudden, I’m back.
I think I’m a little too embarrassed to admit one of the things that started all this. I’ll just say this: it was a TV show. And it wasn’t that I loved the music on the show so much as one of the characters reminded me of how I used to feel about music, and that got me listening to CDs again, and trying to rebuild my old music collection by buying a bunch of used CDs, and looking into concerts and shows again. Okay, I’ll give a hint, since it sort of relates to the remainder of the post, this TV show I don’t quite want to name is named after a song.
This morning, I made some oatmeal and some jasmine tea, and played around on the internet some. Then I got an email from Creative Nonfiction, an awesome magazine that comes out 4 times a year and often features a theme for the issue. The theme I submitted to? “Mistakes.”
At first it looked like the typical email. Thank you for submitting your work to us. We received over 800 submissions, you get the point. I only have one piece of writing that’s still out there, waiting for a response, and when I saw this email and read the first few lines, I thought, here it is, another email rejection letter. I almost expected it. The piece I submitted to this particular contest was experimental, with an unusual structure. And I hadn’t had a ton of time to write it.
But then I kept reading. And the email said that about 10% of the original submissions for the contest were still being considered, and mine was among them!
It certainly feels that way at times. When I’m writing memoir, I’m my own main character, my life is the plot, my predilections become the theme, the story is from my perspective and all the characters’ voices are in some ways filtered through my own.
But on the other hand, memoir writing can be like a crucible. When you are writing memoir and really digging into it, it can be excruciating. Your embarrassing moments are laid bare. And so are your faults. You have to look at yourself in a real way, and it can be scary and really hard to do.
In fact, I know that’s held me back on my latest memoir project. I’ve known for a long time that I wanted to tell a particular story, tentatively titled A Case of You, but it has been hard to get started and keep going on the story because I know there are parts of myself that I’ll have to face that I’d rather not acknowledge at all. So many times I’ll start working on bits and pieces of the project, only to stop a few days later and leave it alone for months. Sometimes the thought of facing those darker parts of yourself can feel scarier than almost anything you could encounter in your external life. But memoir writing doesn’t let you get away with running away from it.