Perhaps the most frustrating part of writing, for me, is the stop and go nature of it.
Inspiration comes and goes. I have had lightening bolts of clarity about a story, character, or message while showering, sleeping, grocery shopping. Often while I'm immersed in other stories (reading, movies, even social media). I've tried to get better at capturing inspiration. Google Keep on my phone. A waterproof notepad in my shower. 60 open tabs in my browser (insert shame faced emoji :/). But I know I often lose it. Conjuring inspiration is more difficult. I've been trying to have the discipline to put myself in inspirational places until words or ideas come. I'm not great at it.
More challenging than inspiration though, is time. It's the eternal complaint of anyone with a clock stuck to their body, whether on their wrist or on the phone in their pocket. When I first stopped working, I was amazed at the abundance of time I suddenly had. I had a toddling baby, who climbed all over me, sure, but I had this story in my mind and I wrote all the time while he was napping or otherwise taken care of. Editing is more challenging. Larger chunks of scheduled time are more useful to me now, so I have enough mental space for my brain to unwind, gear up, and get productive.
Now that I'm preparing publishing, I'm having to navigate time allotment all over again. I'm querying as I can, which requires research of agents and publishing houses to find the right fit as well as the writing and refining of queries, proposals, synopses, etc. I'm also moving forward as if I will independently publish, which looks something like messy exercise in self-branding on top of all the worst stages of the learning curve for things like formatting, ads, and design. It's a challenge to be decisive on things like what the book cover should look like and should there be a forward, preface, or author's note? (probably, but what should it say?). The amorphous work of 'building a platform' and making connections with 'influencers' is easier to execute in passing available moments but more difficult to evaluate return on investment (twitter has me perpetually perplexed).
All of this sounds a lot like complaint (and maybe feels cathartic to complain about). I am writing about it, though, to give myself permission to take my time. I figured out how to fit writing into my life enough to complete a book. I'm better than I was at working on editing so the book I wrote is actually quite good. And I'll figure out all this other stuff- the putting myself out there part and finding champions and readers and *surely* people who are as moved by reading the book as I was writing, editing, and producing it.
A disclaimer, in short: I'm trying my best, apologies where I falter.
In more words:
People will tell you, write what you know. Well, I don't know what it's like to be gay, to be gay and Mormon, to have a child who is either. I don't know all the latest, most preferred, PC, descriptive terminology. I don't presume to cover the entirety of the human experience.
But I'm doing my best. I've tried to create a story of a group of people experiencing a life situation. I spent a good chunk of time not feeling very credible. Not being gay, in Utah, a previously published author with a million dollar book deal, you name it. But when you boil it down, all stories are exercises in imagination. You imagine, attempt as best as possible to get it right, ask trusted friends and strangers to check you and make sure you're not far - or worse, destructive. I've done all these things and feel confident now that the story I have is not mine, but it's real. True in the sense that it is authentic and believable.
But sorry, still, for where I falter.
Shortly after asking my parents to read the book, they were on speakerphone together with me (as they do). My dad was joking/not-joking about being uncomfortable reading about lesbians and my mom asked "Why did you write this book?" Not in mean, discouraging way, but a bit baffled why a young lesbian identity and faith crisis was a topic that I cared enough about to spend a good chunk of my spare time writing. My answer, in short:
I read this report a few years ago about the number of teen suicides in Utah pretty much directly linked to them being gay and LDS. I'd heard plenty of criticism of the Church about homosexuality with Prop 8 and the fight for marriage equality across the country, but it had never occurred to me how the experience of gay Mormons is so so so challenging. I felt devastated at the report and couldn't stop thinking about it. What if I were gay? What if I had to figure out how I could know the Church was true but the Church was telling me something fundamental about me was off? Not just off, bad. There's a story there, about the people who face this challenge and I felt prompted to tell it.
Here's the report analysis, it's got all sorts of graphs and charts and statistical analyses.
ReligionNews did a digestible breakdown (one of several that came out about this time). Here are several key points:
I'll just repeat and bold that last part:
"...the research “is not intended to condemn. Rather, it is presented to contribute to the conversation on this important topic that literally has life-and-death implications."
This is why.
I've read a lot in the last few years about people coming out of the closet. Usually these people were gay and most of the time the experience of coming out is one of two big emotions: total fear and exquisite freedom. It's scary to come out of the closet, for understandable reasons: People are mean and judgmental, and often they just don't get it. Sometimes I think being misunderstood feels worse than being judged. But being seen for you are and knowing that what you are presenting to the world is not skewed or blurred or contorted at all from the real you brings freedom.
The other message I've heard over and over is that the misery of being misunderstood and judged and all sorts of other bad things that can come with coming out of the closet is better, barring physical and psycological violence, than the misery of being locked in. Of feeling unsure of what people's reactions will be and terrified that they might find you out.
I care a lot more about the experience of people in the closet and out than I ever thought I would. I'm not gay, lesbian, bi, transgender, queer, or + (that's short-hand for all the other gender and sexuality experiences I honestly don't know much about). I do know a lot of people who are, though, and for reasons I can't quite articulate, I feel drawn in my heart to their experience.
I've been a closet writer. In NO WAY am I comparing the challenges of being a closet writer to hiding one's sexuality, BUT I do feel like I need to come out. I love to write. I love words and stories and I love putting them together in my head and on paper (of both the physical and digital varieties). Over the last few years, as stay-at-home motherhood has cleared away professional distractions and thrown sideways both my heartstrings and my schedule in new ways, I've written more. Specifically, I wrote a book!
I didn't intend to at first. At first it was a story that occupied my mind as I transitioned from a fast-paced office job to a topsy-turvy life at home with kids. Late at night I typed way on my smartphone as my first baby nursed. I edited as he slept. Pregnant with my second, I finished my draft and now, as both whirlwind around me, I am working on bringing that book into the world.
I knew I would write a book one day (well, hoped, in a bucket-list sort of way), it's not the story I thought would take hold first. It's not my story, but it's one that, however fictional I wrote it, is real and experienced by SO MANY PEOPLE I can't not care about it as if it was my story.
I felt compelled- prompted- to write Romy and Julia. It's the story of two young women who were in the closet and when they met each other, they had to come out.
So now, I'm out as a writer. And I am excited, in a nervous, timid kind of way, to bring out my book.