Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Straight-up Escapism




 My husband, my two kids and I are driving home from a long day which included, among the usual craziness, following a tow-truck with my husband’s car on the back to the mechanic...again. It was just one of those long, never-ending days.
 Actual transcript of what my husband tells me happened in the car:
“Dad, what happens if a tow truck breaks down? Who tows a tow truck?”
“They have bigger tow trucks to tow broken tow trucks.”
“What happens when the biggest tow truck ever breaks down?”
“I don’t know Jake.”
“Mom?” My son paused, because I’m not answering. “Mom!” he yells. Nothing.
“Kristin, Jake’s yelling at you. You ok?”
“What? Sorry, I wasn’t listening to you guys. I was thinking about Disneyland.”
Escapism. I’m guilty of it in spades. In the tough, mundane moments, my mind wanders to things that are pleasurable, like the characters I am developing, a new story plot, or sometimes, apparently, Disneyland.
I belong to more than a few writing groups filled with moms about my age. Of course, we claim to write for fun, for relaxation, because it makes us feel fulfilled…not many of us mention straight-up escapism very often. And I’m not talking, “Oh, writing is such a fun escape for me.” I’m talking, “I can’t handle it anymore. I’m going to go pretend I’m someone else for a little while.”
Maybe it is a dirty little secret of the writer/mom. When the diapers and the screaming and the bills and the mess and the dishes and the piles of laundry get too big to handle, maybe some of us literary types write stories about everything but being a 30-something mom with a whole bunch of kids and a whole bunch of unmade beds.
This quote from Graham Greene hits home: “Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose or paint can manage to escape the madness, melancholia, the panic and fear which is inherent in a human situation.”
Reality TV and ice cream work for a lot of people I guess. Me? Sometimes I write to escape.   Hey, it’s cheaper than a day at the spa.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Orange Jell-o, After Dinner Mints, and a Manuscript



Christmas Eve, circa 1989: Little Me was gorging herself on large helpings of orange Jell-o and handfuls of those pillowy pastel after dinner mints. Not an hour later, I was expunging every ounce of Christmas cheer I had inside my little body into the nearest toilet in the form of the stomach flu. I’ve never been able to even be in the same room with those two products since. Ugh, just writing this is giving me the shakes. 

Everyone’s been here. You’ve eaten something- Top Ramen, a chili-cheese dog, the lingering piece of iffy three-day-old pizza- and not a few hours later you are puking your guts out. And even if the food had nothing to do with your sickness, you’ll never be able to look at pizza the same again.

I had a bad reaction yesterday- and no, this had nothing to do with any type of minty confection or gelatin dessert. I tried reading through my manuscript, the one that has been accepted for publication, and...whoa. NOPE. I didn’t even make it through the first chapter. I couldn’t physically do it. 

It might be all the times I’ve gotten rejected in the past.  Every single time stomach-turning. It might be that I’ve already read the thing in its entirety at least 15 times (without hyperbole), which is enough to make anyone sick of anything. It might be that I have way too much anxiety wrapped up in waiting to see whether this thing is going to be a success or a flop… 

Is there an “all of the above” option somewhere?

So, I’m putting the re-read on pause for a bit to see if I get over my strange aversion. Maybe bask a little longer in the glory of my acceptance and not worry about trying to re-read my work for a 16th time for improvements just yet. 

And when I do need to re-read it when my editor gets back to me with her notes, I’ll be ready for it with fresh eyes and a iron stomach. And for good measure, I’ll try to have some Tums on-hand, and maybe…I don’t know…what’s the opposite of Jell-o?
Chips?
Yep. Sounds about right. Doritos it is!   

What do you guys do when you just can't stomach your own work anymore???