The best of times, the worst of times, and the work

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I am a great believer in the idea that life experiences balance out. That bad times are followed by good times, and vice versa. That very very amazing things are almost always accompanied with very very horrible things. This gets me through dark times, knowing that things will get better. This also makes me very nervous when things are going very very well, wondering when the other shoe will drop.

I had an Annus Horrible Horribilis, last year. This of course leads me think about horrible anuses, so there is that. Funny.

These days, I am going through the worst of times in some ways, the best of times in others. And so, in a weird twisted way, I am enjoying the amazing things more than I would had there been an absence of the horrible.

After the worst few months of my life last year, I began writing again. I wasn’t sure when I would return to writing, given that I’d had a child the year previous, and was completely overwhelmed by my new life. But then I wrote an essay for The Rumpus. I wrote another piece for SunDog Lit. A couple stories were accepted for publication. And then I wrote an essay for BuzzFeed. Which then went viral. I am grateful for all the readers who read the essay and then took the time to retweet it, share it on Facebook, emailed it to friends, and posted it on their tumblrs and blogs. You all made a difference for me.

Because the agents and editors came calling. I had some exhilarating discussions with each. In the end, I made my choice, and am now partnered with an amazing agent.

Then my SunDog Lit piece was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

All this in the wake of a fourteen year old marriage that fell apart in spectacular fashion. While adjusting to new motherhood.

So now I face another year. It can’t be worse than 2013, and I doubt the lows will match those of 2014.

I usually put a “to-do” list of actionable items together at the beginning of each year. Like, ride the ferry around the bay or make bitters or plant a vegetable garden.

Last year I did not make such a list–OHDEAR I REALIZE I DID!Last year I made a list–but mostly, I just wanted to get my life back together in whatever form it would. 2014 was about self-care and finding my way back to joy. I gained a lot of weight, and I enjoyed gaining all the weight I’d lost in 2013, back. And then some.

This year–I just don’t want to think about lists. I just want to keep exploring and furthermore, do the work. 2015 is going to be about work. I’m working on completing my stroke memoir. I’m working on getting rigor back into my new life.

As much as I believe in the inevitable balance–I also believe that I can position myself the best I can for each upswing, making sure all my ducks are in a row, and doing the best work I can, to ensure the best outcome.

The creative process is oftentimes a black box. It’s not exciting to describe–as it is purely about work. I think artists also like to continue the myth of brilliance–that ideas come out of thin air, that words come together in sequence in a sudden revelation. Nope. It is work. It is sweat. It is frustration. It is craving a donut instead of looking at the page. It is anxiety. It is fear. It is exhilaration. It is hope. So much of it is also about waiting.

It is about showing up on the steps each day to greet the Muse, should she choose to stop by. You sweep the steps, waiting. Sometimes the Muse does not come by. Oftentimes, the Muse makes no appearance. But if you are not on the steps, and the Muse does not come by, then you miss her. So you wait. You sweep.

I was hanging out with a Famous Writer last year. He and I arranged a social gathering together. It was a very low key, unexciting process. Like, what-do-you-want-to-drink, I-am-at-Trader-Joes, What-time-should-we-meet, All-right, etc., etc. But when the party started rolling, he told the party-planning story multiple times. Each time, he revised his telling such that in the end, it was more along the lines of, “Man! Christine is a party animal! Holy crap! She made me get all this liquor! She made sure we were going to party hard! She made me get more!” (well, not exactly–he told it much better).

I looked up at him, “Hey! You’re revising!”

He cocked his head. Thought about what I’d said. Smiled.

No one noticed his acknowledgment of the work.

But I did.

2 Comments

  1. Christine, Thanks so much for sharing this. Even as a fellow writer, sometimes I think we expect to get to a point where writing isn’t so difficult, but that never changes. It’s just the nature of the beast (and a little of the nature of ourselves). Here’s hoping 2015 is an upswing year!

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