The Glamour of Getting it All Down

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.

19 thoughts on “The Glamour of Getting it All Down

    • Thanks! You’re right. I wonder if they have a sparkly cardigan & small poofy dog combo pack. But the pink sweater, get the Maltese for free? Anyway, thanks for popping by and for the follow!

  1. You are wrong. You do have amazing, startling revelations about your journey. Congrats on the plays and the books and the writing success that will come in the future. I’m so proud of you and proud to know you.
    Your writing and recovery friend,
    Michele 🙂

    • Thanks, Michele! You are the best and congrats on your journey too! Anything is possible in recovery and our lives can truly become awesome. So thanks for being an example of that! hearts, Sean

  2. The best thing anyone anybody ever told me was to write for myself, and not to worry if I ever get published. So I write to amuse myself first, and if someone else likes it then it’s even better.

    The next best thing I was told was to just write.

    I’m in the fledgling stage of getting published. I have submitted stories here and there with no response. I expect this to continue until someone says yes. I have to give credit to my Creative Writing teacher, Henry Marchand, at Monterey Peninsula College with getting me past (most) of the worrying which most writers feel when editors pass on their stories. Through the class’s workshop process I’ve accepted that once I put my story out there for others to read it’s no longer “mine”, and it becomes an entity unto itself.

    I still freak out just a little.

    Sean, are you familiar with the online magazine “The Fix”? It’s written by recovered(ing) addicts for guys like us.

    • Hey! I love The Fix! I submitted a blog idea for them awhile back. And I totally agree about writing for yourself. The readers, where it all ends up or turns into–all of that is none of my business and will show up as long as I’m writing what’s true to me. Or that’s what I believe. Thanks for the blog holler. Always love your thoughts.

  3. As I read this, I’m just thinking that if I do go for a tattoo, “Keep writing” could be it. That thing we never want to forget, but often avoid. Thanks for the continued inspiration!

    • Oh I’ll totally go with you for that tattoo date!! “Keep Writing” is a life mantra, a perpetual item on the to do list, and a thing I hope I tell myself forever. Love you, auntie.

  4. I think everyone has a little Dame Barbara Cartland inside of them. It’s just how you cope with it on the outside that makes us different.
    It saddens me to think of you EVER having any self-doubts about your talent, but it comes with the writing territory. Oh, I too so want to be a famous writer without having to write. Maybe be like the author version of Warhol or Kostabi, you know, come up with the idea and delegate others to write it. Fuck, I’d like to delegate others to come up with the ideas, now that I think about it. Let me know when the play comes out. You’re in LA right? I would love to come out to see it. Your honesty and courage about being honest are heroic. That’s it Mahoney, you’re my superhero. It’s true, and lot’s of those dudes are gay. C’mon, with those costumes? So never give up Fighting The Good Fight, my friend. You have more comrades than you probably realize. Enjoy the game, and remember, The Creator conceals and then The Creator reveals.

    • Thanks Marius. Yeah the self-doubt thing is an old warped cassette that needs to be thrown out but every now and then, my brain turns it on. My brain should choose the 8 track of Cats Stevens Greatest Hits instead but whatcha gonna do? Seriously, it’s all part of the process and the trick is to not listen for too long and keep on writing.
      I’m not in Los Angles anymore. After 15 years, I needed a break. I met my future husband while visiting my hometown of Denver and moved back here. But my plays might very make their way to the west coast with the help of some program buddies believe it or not. So if that happens I’ll let you know for sure!

  5. This is such a feel-good post, I adore the photo. You are a skilled (and splendid) writer.

  6. I have immensely enjoyed your writing and how openly, honestly, and humorously you have written about all those challenging and difficult topics in your life. I happened across and episode of Frasier last night that speaks to the need to just write, put it out there, and not be overly concerned with the opinion of others about your writing.

    • Love that! Or as they call it in recovery “staying out of the results.” An excellent if not difficult practice. I think the best art comes out of not thinking about it too much.Thanks for reading and for the lovely words of encouragement! xo- S.

  7. well most unfortunately, I have not visited your blog in a while-my immense loss! i thank you for stopping by mine the other day. And I thank you for this post-it is so perfect. seriously, it just hit me in all the right places this morning. domo arigato!

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