Well folks, I did it. I am applying for a long-shot writing program and I finished the required 10-page writing sample and the personal statement two days ahead of the submission deadline. This is like college me all over again, people. I like finishing things early. I like having time to rewrite and revise and generally stew over everything I’ve done until the last possible minute.
I know I started this experiment wanting to explore the relationship between alcohol and my own productivity and I think I’m coming to a conclusion that I wasn’t quite expecting. I generally believed that drinking with my decreased tolerance was contributing to a general malaise that didn’t foster any type of creative work. Whew. Got that?
What I’m realizing is a bit more nuanced: it’s not the alcohol that is the problem here but the fact that I’ve been using it for the past year and a half as a stand-in for facing the question of what I’d like to do with my life. It’s a hard question to face. It’s one that I am still struggling with but somehow feels easier to face now that I’m not hiding behind a couple-three glasses of wine a night.
In college, exams would be returned to us in our campus mailbox. The tests would be folded in half and stapled shut so only our name showed which allowed the mail service to route them to our boxes. Upon getting my test, I would rip it open regardless of whether or not I thought I had done well: I just HAD to know what I got. By contrast, I had a friend who would take the tests and tuck them into her bag and sometimes not open them for days. DAYS. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to know but she said she liked that if the test wasn’t open, then the possibility of a perfect outcome still existed. When she explained her rationale, I got it on some level but mostly just thought she was engaging in a form of ritual self-deception since the test score was ON the paper; not opening it didn’t change the fact that there was a score that had been assigned. The mystery of her score, good or bad, had already been solved.
In a lot of ways, I think I’ve been living as that college friend of mine. I claim that I want to write and then I don’t do it because the conditions aren’t perfect: maybe a wall needs painting, or a light fixture needs hanging, or my daughter kept me up the night before, or I’m feeling some sort of gross malaise that I attribute to drinking (which does happen, don’t get me wrong). But generally, what I think has been happening is that I haven’t been ready to face the possibility that I could very well suck at this. By not writing, the possibility of easy success still exists.
In truth, I am realizing that staring at a blank page and creating worlds from scratch, and forcing myself to blog every workday, and generally being accountable to my dreams by sitting down and actually WRITING EVERY DAY may not guarantee success. But it does stop that gnawing feeling that I’ve been hiding behind every night for the past year and a half. With every day that I wake up and do the work of pursuing this dream, I am banishing the demons that had me convinced that a couple glasses of wine and Netflix each night was fine, and that TOMORROW I’d get down to the hard work of writing. Tomorrow, I’d submit my my work knowing that rejection would be the likely response. Tomorrow, I’d write prose so treacly that I wanted to shoot myself for actually committing it to exist. Tomorrow, I’d query that editor. Tomorrow. Tomorrow. Tomorrow.
It’s a lot easier to languish on the couch with a drink, huh?
So I’m slowly learning to face things today. I had a small gin and tonic while I was grilling dinner tonight to celebrate my completed application. Tonight, I am blogging and editing my application and reading a novel that I’m seriously loving.
Tomorrow, I’ll do what I’ve been doing every day for the past week: I’ll get up and work.