I have launched my writing career.
I’m at Bon Chef Café which has only been on the block for eight months but is already known as “The Place for Henderson, Nevada Artists.” One painter stands before an easel bringing the colors of a Mojave desert sunset together on his canvas. A serious, sultry saxophonist stands on a makeshift stage and the music he plays is his own. There are poets and playwrights and actors and architects.
Most of this is a lie. I am at Bon Chef, it has been here for eight months, and while the food and the service is super high-quality, it isn't known as "The Place for Henderson, Nevada Artists."
In truth, seven tables are occupied, but no one has an easel or a brass instrument that I can see. There are four couples, one with a kid; a group of three women; and a man wearing a baseball cap and licking his fingers while eating soup out of a pot. I guess he could be drawing pictures in the soup, but I doubt it. And me, with my husband’s laptop and a few hours to write... to practice this skill in a more focused, deliberate way.
I have chosen a table with a view of the front door, to spot writing talent scouts if they arrive. I am ready for them. I am ready to “put myself out there.” Problem is… I don’t have a novel in my brain. Or my heart. Or my fingertips. I only have this blog, and a handful of friends who tell me I should write a book. That’s like me telling them they should build a house even though they’ve never done it and don’t have the lumber. And, furthermore, they all should be deathly afraid of having large boards fall on their heads and crush their brains. That’s what can happen in house-building, and, figuratively, in “putting yourself out there” to write, or to do anything that sounds fun but scares your pants off.
Being willing to take a risk and start something is the big thing for me. I am finally ready. I couldn’t do this until today. Until today I had a bunch of young children and I was busy diapering and nursing and navigating naptimes and playdates and it was all I could do to stay awake, much less devote any time to something artful or creative. I recently realized, though, my youngest child is now FIVE. He can practically write a novel himself. So it’s time to get out there and start writing.
Cue the foreboding music. If I say I’m ready, I need to act like I’m ready. And that means writing, not just wanting to write and talking about writing – doing it! So the fears and insecurities begin to roll. As I experience self-doubt, I think back to junior high and my friend Allison’s “I Love Boys” shoelaces. I noticed them when we were riding our ten-speeds one day. I was shocked! Who has the confidence to wear such a declaration on her shoes? (Well, Allison did.) But I never would have. Too much risk. What if none of them loved me back? Better to just keep that information secret and hope some boy figures it out and asks me to the Wednesday night dance in the cafeteria. (It should be stated, however relevant or not: Allison had a boyfriend WAY before I did.)
I have another boy-story, but this one set in college. Our university fellowship was at camp on Catalina Island and I had a crush on a guy named Luke. Unfortunately, Luke – along with about a dozen other guys in our group – had a crush on Vanessa. And one afternoon down by the pier, Vanessa had a rollicking game of tag going with about six of those guys. Tag! We were in our early 20s! Shouldn’t we have moved on to more mature games? Bridge, maybe? I stood there staring. I clearly remember the whole scene, except the part about where I was standing. I sure hope I wasn’t lurking under the pier or something, because that’s just sad. Anyway, I remember thinking that tag seemed ridiculous and if I had to play tag to get a guy to like me, it was never going to happen. I would be forever single, and living beneath a pier.
I don’t want to put myself out there. I don’t want to wear the “I Love Boys” shoelaces. I don’t want to play tag with a bunch of guys. Truthfully, I’m pretty nervous sitting in this café with the little bit of hummus I spilled on my black pants. It’s all too scary! The boys might not love back; the game of tag looks foolish; and any minute now some stranger is going to come up to me and say, “Hey, lady, who are you kidding?” (Or is it whom? See? I barely have a grasp on my grammar!) “You need to go home and vacuum up the dog fur and reorganize the linen closet because you ain’t gonna write the next Great American Novel.”
That’s the fear. But lately a hundred voices are actually saying good things - all telling me I need to at least try. No shoelaces, no tag, maybe a little hummus on my pants, but that’s okay. And just get writing. Because, while clearly I wasn’t put on this earth to flirt, I do find joy and fulfillment in writing: blog posts, letters, essays, poetry, character sketches, text messages. Maybe if I put all those together and do it a lot more often and quit hiding under the fricking pier – it will pay off.