From the time I was 16 until I was 22, I worked at my parent’s bookstore. Okay, it was really my mom’s store. My cop dad was just along for the ride. Her love of books and art made her quit her accounting job and buy a funky bookstore-poster shop-framing business combo in South Denver. I gleefully became her employee. My other attempts at teenage employment were tragic including a brief stint at McDonald’s wherein a manager said with zero irony in his voice, “You might be the worst person that ever worked here.” Such a critique didn’t really break my fifteen-year old heart which longed for something else. Naturally, working around books was a dream come true. Because as much as I loved Chicken McNuggets, books and writing were always the true loves of my life.
In my years as a bookstore employee, I must have looked at thousands of book jackets and author’s photos. But the jackets of Dame Barbra Cartland, romance novelist extraordinaire never failed to crack me up. Cartland was always photographed with that fuzzy Vaseline on the lens look in an ornately decorated room and flocked by small, poofy dogs. Writing Cortland style looked so fabulous. I never read the books but I had to admire the sparkly manner in which she lived. Little did I know that writing full-time is sometimes not so pretty and other times really fucking hard.
I bring all of this up because in this six month journey of writing this blog, I’ve realized for the jillionth time that this writing thing is not for wussies. The creative blockage, the rejections, the buckets of self-doubt are exactly the things that kept me from pursuing writing while I was drinking and using. As a copywriter for the last two years, I’ve been blessed to get my muscles in shape. I have articles, blogs, product blurbs, press releases and the like due for clients daily. I don’t have time to tell myself that I suck and no one will ever read what I write. This is an extreme blessing. Left to my own self-sabotaging devices, I would wallow in coulda been ideas and wonder if there wasn’t a way I could become a glamorous, famous writer without ever actually having to, you know, write. Cue the Tom Waits and the jug of whiskey.
Luckily, this steady stream of work opened me up to the possibilities of bigger ideas hence the birth of my first play and my second one on the way. I started this here blog right after my first play went into production. Mainly because I was given the excellent advice to keep writing and tackling the next project on my list. So I knew I wanted to write about being an addict and alcoholic and gay and HIV positive. Not that I’m an expert or have any startling revelations about any of these things but because I couldn’t find a book that talked about this stuff that also had a sense of humor about itself. There’s a great quote by Toni Morrison which says, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” So that’s what happened. I think I pictured writing these clever musings about recovery down, the world applauding and a giant check like those big phony ones they give away on the Price is Right arriving at my door. Instead, I’ve been extremely touched humbled and baffled by then process. Talking about this stuff that nobody likes to talk about opens the door for more people to say, “Oh! Me too!!” Which has been the unexpected and brilliant gift with the whole thing. I’ve been turned on to a world of amazing writers that I would not have found otherwise. Many of them from backgrounds just like mine. Also, I never anticipated how many feelings revisiting my old life would bring up. I thought all of the hours of crying in 12 step meetings zapped the power out of most of that stuff and it has for the most part. But it’s still exhausting and at times terrifying traveling back down roads that once tried to kill you. I’ve had posts that take the wind out of me or take me days to write due to my emotional response.
Ultimately, it feels great though. I’m halfway in my journey and I can see the book I wanted to read start to take shape. Glamorous? Hardly. But doing what I want and staying out-of-the-way of the process the best I can. And that makes me like that fabulous author on the back of the book jacket.