I know. It’s been…a while.
And do you know why?
I’m writing a book. Cough! Let me rephrase that. I’m trying to write a book. It’s going to hell in a hand basket and everything I write sucks and it’s terrible—or—awesomely amazing, it’s really coming together, miracle of miracles, I have written good things.
All depends on the day.
And I haven’t written here because everything I write is potentially book material and also because I don’t think anyone actually reads this blog. Except my sisters. And Gretchen. And Jeremy. And Craig.
I appreciate your support. It makes me feel loved.
Anyway enough about my insecurity. How are you?
You can’t answer so imma just go ahead and talk about me some more. Good? Good.
Here’s the haps: It’s snowing today. My son just came into the kitchen where I’m sitting writing this and Jeremy is typing up the highlights of The Divine Conspiracy, one of his favorite books.
“Ugh, the snow” Jeremiah says.
“you don’t like the snow?” Jeremy asks
He shakes his head, sullen.
“Jeremiah, it snows here a lot. You know, the better thing would be to figure out the gifts in the snow. Like, figure out what you like about it or what it offers you so you can look forward to that thing when it starts to snow.”
“Yeah” Jeremy says “I’m sitting here relaxing because it’s snowing. It makes me feel like I just want to be at home and have some down time instead of going somewhere. I like that.”
I’ve been learning how to figure out the gifts of the less than desireable lately.
My favorite author in the whole wide world, Glennon Doyle, announced the title of her new book a few days ago.
On the back cover?
“What would you do if you trusted yourself?”
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Best because omg I love her and everything she writes and admittedly have an unnatural affinity for her. Worst of times because although I still have no real idea about what my book is about (it keeps changing), I do know a huge theme is trusting myself. I actually have written the words “I think I just needed to learn that I could trust myself enough to know how to take care of me.” And then once, when outlining what my book might be about I wrote “a memoir about learning to trust God, learning to trust myself, and how the two commingle . It’s a combination of dealing with faith and doubt and listening to myself. When I wasn’t sure what lessons I’d learned I’d ask myself “what did learning to trust God and myself teach me about faith and doubt?” And “how did I become who I’m capable of being through these things? How did I learn to trust?”
The answer would be the big idea of your story.
I did not answer what the big idea of my story was, by the way. Because from the time I wrote that to now, it’s evolved. My book is not really that so much anymore. It’s dang close, but I don’t think the God piece is so prevalent. Not because I don’t want Him to be! Just because it’s not the way it’s shaping up. I think maybe my book is about my mid-life crisis instead. How when I got pregnant with Ellie, I was sent into a panic about her going to school and feared my purpose (as a stay-at-home-mom) was running out with my role. This prompted me to ask a bunch of panicky questions like who am I? What can I do in the world? WILL I HAVE TO GET A JOB AT STARBUCKS?! Or maybe my book is about being a Housewife and roles. I don’t know. It’s also about getting an autoimmune disease and what that meant—how I’d have to heal myself in ALL the ways. I’d have to learn to feed myself well and move my body more and…and…and…It’s probably little bit of all of that but I don’t know the label under which all of that fits.
I DON’T KNOW OKAY?
Diary Of An Overdramatic Hot Mess, maybe?
Just kidding, that’s a stupidly generic title. And too self deprecating. I had a REAL crisis, ya’ll!
The point is, trusting myself is the ONLY thing that I know about my book. And then my hero wrote a book about learning to trust yourself. It hurt a little because I knew that’s how I was going to feel when I read what she had to say about something I’ve been trying to articulate for three years to no avail (yet) and then blew whatever I had to say out of the water—hurt.
How can I be so sure of this? Because pretty much everything the woman has written blows everything I’ve ever read out of the water.
Heres the thing about this though. In the writing world this whole “she wrote my book before I could get done” is a bizarrely common phenomenon. I’ve read many authors accounts about how the very book they were writing was written faster by another renowned author. Nothing new under the sun and all that. The lesson is always the same: there’s room for everybody at the table. We need your voice. We need their voice. Keep writing.
Still, I felt like I was just drafted to the junior high basketball team when I learn Kobe Bryant is coming to play with us. Like…do they even need me? Do I just quit now? I can’t imagine I’ll add any value after he steps on the court.
Vulnerable, I decided I needed to send out a little SOS email to my editor, Kelly. I don’t ever write to Kelly about personal matters. I pay her to edit my work. She is not a therapist. She owes me no free advice. But I wrote her because being a writer herself, she was one of the only people I knew who would understand and because I kept getting this nudge–tell Kelly, tell Kelly.
As I told you, I’m learning to trust myself?
So I sent it. I ended with this question: “today I fear somebody already wrote my book better than I can. That’s not true, right?”
Then I went to lunch with my sister and told her this whole story.
“I know it’s not true” I say to her “but I feel like my book has no place now. She’s going to do it better.”
“Unless you’re a doubter, a worrier, a nail biter, an apologizer, a re-thinker. Then Memoir may not be your play pen. That’s the quality I found most consistently in those life story writers I’ve met. Truth is not their enemy, it’s the banister they grab for while feeling around on the dark cellar stairs. It’s the solution.” —Mary Karr
So you see, all this self-doubt and worrying makes me a legitimate candidate for the line of work I’m in.
Funny thing is, after the initial disappointment, all the worry suddenly propelled me to articulate what I needed to say and get it down on the page before Glennon’s book gets released into the world. The threat of her doing it better than me prompted me to ask “what am I worried she’s going to say better than me?” which allowed me to actually know what I wanted to say. You’d think a writer would know what they want to say, but you’d be wrong.
In one day I re-wrote two chapters and then a new prospective intro. (I say “prospective” because I’ve written what I thought were three separate intros before realizing they were all chapters instead–THE INSANITY!)
What surprised me the most was after I’d written the prospective intro I woke up the next day and read my words and…here’s the crazy part…still felt like they were true.
Here is what I wrote:
“Let me tell you about the women who interest me.
They are the ones who aren’t afraid.
of their bodies
of feeding themselves
of what they want
of becoming more
Let me tell you about the women who interest me.
They are the ones who know love.
of the unloveable.
They know that beauty isn’t found in the reflection of a mirror but in the reflection of a life.
They know the wisest guidance is not out there, but inside.
Let me tell you about the women who interest me.
They do the work they were born to do the way they were born to do it.
They let themselves be human.
They know to see the unseen
They know how to be.
They know. They know. They know.
Those are the women who interest me.
And I want to be one.”
I don’t know if this is what my book is about but I know that the gift of disappointment pushed me to write true things with urgency.
A few days after I’d found new wind in my writing sails, Kelly wrote me back.
She said that she acknowledges that sometimes what God does “for” us actually looks and feels like getting pushed out of a tree.
“I’ll tell you something I know for sure” she writes, “Glennon Doyle can’t write Krysta MacGray’s book. Only you are having Krysta MacGray’s journey. And there really isn’t anything more special about her OR her writing than there is about you and yours. I promise. Pinky swear.
My best advice is to find what’s useful for you here. This really feels like some kind of gift in disguise to me. Feel the feels. But when you’re ready, be willing to poke through the ashes of your worry/disappointment and look for that little sparkly gem that’s hiding there.”
Don’t you just wish you knew Kelly?!
Sometimes what God does “for” us actually looks and feels like getting pushed out of a tree.
Sometimes it looks like the threat of your hero outdoing you. Sometimes it looks like self-doubt, or fear the the unknown.
My best advice is to find what’s useful for you here, she’d written.
I can’t change what Glennon’s book is about. I can’t change what mine will be about (because it’s my story). What I can do is find the gift in the uncertainty and doubt.
Find the gifts. Find the way.
Otherwise, it can just look like a bleak struggle.
When disappointment comes a knocking, look for the sparkly little gems hidden there.
I want to be a woman who knows these things.