October 5, 2014

Starting All Over Again

As writers, we’re told to write the stories we want to read. So I do. Because the Night started as my bedtime story, basically. I had to make up characters and a plot to make my mind stop racing after a stressful work day. It’s something I still do, of course now I’ve had to come up with new characters that I can never, ever write about, because then I’d have to get up and write everything down instead of settling in for the night. But when I’m looking to distress, relax, and entertain myself, the last thing I’m thinking about is a grand theme. I’m never going to be a literary writer and no one is ever going to ever accuse me of being super deep. These are things I’m perfectly fine with.
I’ve been doing interviews for Secondhand Heart, and I’ve been talking a lot about the theme of the book. I’ve said that it’s coming home, or starting over, but it’s really a book about change. Change is a scary fucking thing. It’s the only thing that’s guaranteed. I could quote science and stuff, there are theories and reactions and the whole nine, but like I said, no one’s ever going to accuse me of being deep.
No one ever wants to admit that they are afraid of change, but as a society, we strive for the exact opposite. Comfort. Routine. Security. Control. We want to know that we have a job to go to, a place to go home to, and the people we love close by. We want to make enough money to stay comfortable and do the things we enjoy. Most importantly, we want to have a say in what happens to us.
But there are a thousand things happening in the universe right now that could rip the rug right out from under you. You could lose your job, your home, or your loved ones. Things can be taken from us at any time, no matter how well we prepare ourselves to have those things forever.
You might not have a say in the things you lose, but you absolutely have a say in the things you choose to replace what you’ve lost.
I’ve fallen on my face more times than I want to admit. I’ve fucked things up. I have regrets. I’ve lost a lot. But I’m okay now, actually, I’m better than okay, I’m happy. One thing that change has given me is freedom. I’ve been able to make choices based on what I want instead of fear. Any time I’ve chosen the comfortable thing in life, it’s hurt me. When I was younger, I either wasn’t ready or didn’t have the balls to go after what I wanted, because I might fail, or people might judge me. I wound up working at the fucking mall. Sometimes I beat myself up for not pursuing more sooner, but there’s no way I could have worked in the entertainment industry when I was younger. I wouldn’t have had the drive. Simply put, I didn’t want it bad enough yet. I envy my friends who are still in their teens, writing books, some of them with publishing deals and agents. But I needed to live my life in a certain way to have a story to tell.
Ready. That’s another thing you need to be to accept change. Daisy said it so perfectly, it was only then I finally understood:
People gave me all sorts of options for what I should do next. I just wasn’t ready to make any choices right now. I’d already made my choice, and I had been happy. I wanted that back. So they could dangle all the Cam Hunters they wanted in front of my face. All the jobs, all the places to live, anything really. It didn’t matter how good it sounded. I wasn’t ready for another failure.
All or nothing. I couldn’t make myself see the middle ground that everyone insisted existed. The one where I did little things to move on.
So many times I’ve said I wished I knew when I was younger all the things we could really do in life. My two big examples are always being a stunt person or a race car driver. Of course, I knew other people did those things, but I didn’t realize it was available to me. Everyone around me played it safe, so I thought that’s what I should do, too. But it didn’t work for me. Now I realize, you can start over at any time, whether you want to or not, and you will succeed, just because you tried. If you don’t try, you’ll always fail.

kristenstrassel

George M. - October 19, 2014

Great commentary, especially the last line. There are things I wish I did when I was younger, pursuing my Creative Writing degree. I wished I took the time to learn about the publishing business, build a better community of writing friends, and so forth. If I could travel back in time, I would tell my younger self to seek out those opportunities to better yourself as a writer, and more importantly, don’t let fear hold you back. But, as you say, it’s not too late.

    kristenstrassel - October 20, 2014

    It’s not too late! Everything’s changing in publishing so fast, anything you learned ten, even five years ago may no longer apply. I also believe that your life journey is what gives you the story. I wasn’t ready to finish a book until I did it. Sure, I regret I didn’t do it when I was twenty, but I needed to live my life first to have something to write about.

George M. - October 23, 2014

I think that’s my biggest fear in writing; that I haven’t lived a full life. I’m not saying I was privileged, but I felt sheltered from a lot of harsh realities. But there is a reality I must accept: my mental health issues. I suppose that makes good story material, but I want my stories to be a symbol of hope, that anything is possible.

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