Aye-yi-aye! The past couple of days have been r-o-u-g-h! Hormone Rita has been raging but on top of that, I had to acknowledge that while I thought I was “past it”, my no-kid grief still lives in me. Yesterday I described it to Matt that I feel like little pieces of shattered glass live above me and they just hang out there sometimes reflecting light and others times missile down on me and stab me in my happiness.
My therapist told me I’m pretty good at helping myself and last week I mentioned to you all that I use my writing to help myself and that we all need to find something like this to stay high in order to stay afloat when things start to get wonky. So yesterday, I tried to take my own advice and put my head down and I got to work. Two new clients kept me busy (one for speech writing and one for copy editing her marketing book). I am grateful. And I also got back to working on my ancestry book, which was nice.
If you’re following along, while during my residency, my goal was to write 30,000 words of my new novella. They didn’t have to be good words, but I thought, I can write 30,000 words in a month. Welp, last Sunday, three days before the end of the residency, I was only at 23,951 words and I freaked out. I started crying. I was in a beautiful home, seated at my own personal desk, in a quiet room with no one to bother me; I had all the things I yearn for and there I was at my computer crying. I knew I was having a form of a panic attack built up from self-imposed pressure exponentially souped up by my Instagram posts touting my daily numbers.
I was feeling like a failure, even though I knew (this time) that I wasn’t one. So, through the tears, I sent an SOS to my support girls. We are a group of six black women who have been together for almost ten years and we help each other with everything from freak-outs like this one, to motherhood stuff for those on that journey, to job referrals to snarky stuff to new vagina-area creams. I messaged them:
“Matt says to think about changing the goal so I don’t beat myself up and still feel good. That feels like I’m being a wuss. But I did set the goal, no one else did. Or do I just say I will be happy with whatever I accomplish? I’m getting stressed. Started crying this morning. Not worth it to cry.”
My dear friend Morenike sent an audio clip back with the best advice, which I call, “The Goal is Not The Thing”:
After listening to this, more crying ensued which was simply a true release of tension. I felt redirected and I was able to continue! I decided that I would use the remaining time to organize and research and to let that “30k” go. It was THE best thing to do and glad I did because I didn’t allow myself to ruin what had been a wonderful experience. I posed this picture to remind myself. #Winning
So yesterday, I got back into the story for the first time since being back and I was happy I had my notes to refer to and knew where to start up again. I looked at all the questions I have to answer about character and themes, and I wrote a dope paragraph on fear coming from a father perspective to his daughter, and then I got interrupted and had to do something else. But I realized I’d worked on the book for a good solid hour and that made me happy and I walked around in gratitude for awhile and I felt better emotionally.
Something else that made me feel better yesterday is that I received an early birthday present, sort of. For my birthday this year, which is Friday November 8th (best.day.ever), I made it a *goal* to have a completed draft of Harlem’s Awakening Pt 2. I had sent off my current draft to beta readers on Oct 1 so they could review it during my residency and therefore, when I got back this week, I could work like a beaver and chop away at their changes and voila have a completed draft on my birthday. Once again the goal was a little lofty. Not gonna make it. BUT, I did receive the notes. Yesterday I received great notes back from my reader friend Ruthy who four years ago read my manuscript and was like, “What the heck is this? Please tell me you didn’t send this to anyone.” Which I had and the agent passed and then it took two years to recover from the disappointment and now I’m back! So, Ruthy says this is a much better read and that there are still problems, but much better! My mom is my second reader, I know — family: not the answer — but she is my 1940s expert and her comment was, “Not enough time-period stuff”. So, I have that to work on. And a new author friend, Katherine Ross read a few chapters. I met her while doing a reading earlier this year and her debut book, Black Was Not a Label just dropped this month (please support!). She commented that the pacing is good, it feels colloquial in places and Magdalena may need some fleshing out. This is all great news; I’ve got work to do on my birthday and that’s what I’ll be doing!
One more “random” thing:
While I was in Santa Barbara, my new friend Sophia (who runs SoFar Sounds SB) told me about this amazing shop on State Street called Random. It is exactly that. A random flea market+vintage shop+bookstore+holy crapoloa I love it store. There are boxes of things like jeans and buttons and kitchen tiles and paintbrushes everywhere. I wandered to the back and found a box of someone’s personal stuff. This happens all the time; people pass away and then their stuff ends up in a world of Random for people like me to find.
Because I’m heavy into researching on Ancestry.com and would love to find anything random on my family, when I found this box full of vintage family photos, I got suuuper excited. As I dug further, I discovered this box most likely belonged to a WWII photographer (or someone who enlisted and was good with a camera). I really hoped that some of his war-time photos would have just even one black person and I could hope that maybe it was someone to whom I belonged. Alas, that wasn’t the case. However, it is the case for someone else. So, for Veteran’s Day on 11/11, I’m going to write a special blog post about the box and show more photos from it in the event that maybe we can find to whom these pictured people belong.
I love this photo. I’ve begun to research this “Ann” to see what I can find. So along with the Chambers family, Nigeria and Igbo culture, I’m now researching a bunch of people I don’t know.