I am reading Anne Lamott’s book, Bird by Bird. Some Instructions on Writing and Life. She is a master with language and peppers her writing with terms both wise and witty. Sometimes she grumbles and whines. I like that. Today is a grumbling, whiny day for me.
She tells me I am to simply bang out my first draft, have fun, be crazy, play. It will be shitty, she assures me of this. But in the shit, I might find a sentence, one little line or maybe only one tiny word that will dredge up….Oh for phuck sake. Today I can’t get there from here.
I meditated. I’m kinda’ centered. Blah Blah Blah. Yet I find myself with nothing to say and who the hell am I saying it to anyhow?
(Alice, dear, you know you are supposed to be thinking only positive thoughts in order to attract positive energy into your world. Pretend all the stuff you want already exists and it will magically manifest as your “new reality.” Yes, Random-Whispering-Voice in my head, I know, but some days it’s easier than others, so just shut up about all the manifestation crapola for twenty minutes.)
What the heck am I doing this for? At sixty-five I’ve decided to reinvent myself as an author? On good days I think, “Hey lady! You got this. You invented yourself into a product designer at fifty.” But on days like today taking my past-middle-aged self and turning into a writer seems a preposterous dream. As if I could become a bagel just by breathing, believing and thinking, “I am a bagel. I became a bagel the day the local bakery spotted all my warm potential bagel deliciousness.”
Okay, Alice…think about Grandma Moses. I just did a Google search. Old Granny Moses didn’t get serious about painting until her seventies. She lived to be 101.
I will channel Grandma Moses, replacing her brushes with a keyboard. I’ll keep slamming on the keys, making shitty first drafts. I made a boatload of shitty paintings when I first began working with watercolors. I actually sold some of those dreadful pictures and gave several away. One particularly embarrassing piece comes to mind. A raccoon wandering a snowy field under a full white moon. He casts long blue shadows as he roams in front of a weathered barn. Herbie and Barb were my victims. I’ve pleaded with them to toss that painting out, but they’ve refused. Your crap paintings live on to haunt you. The good news is after a while, my watercolors improved.
As a fledgling product designer, I had no idea what I was doing. I just doggedly kept at it, drawing lines on paper. Boss Mary Beth said she gave me a box to grow into. My first box was the size of a Sunkist raisin single serve container. When I outgrew that box she gave me a full-size Honey Nut Cheerios box.
Ultimately I outgrew all of her boxes and went on alone to design for a Chinese factory, walking the design wire without a net. The earliest product I created, a classic fountain made of resin, got a roll-out at Costco. It was carried in every Costco Warehouse from the here in the USA to Canada, United Kingdom, and Mexico.
Now, I will occupy writing boxes. My current container is as small as a ring box. I’ll keep pounding keys until this one becomes too snug. Then I’ll crawl into a larger carton, dragging my laptop along with me.
For today, I’ll quit beating my head against the keyboard. I’m doing a drawing of peridot eyed, gray and white Smokey the cat. He had to be put to sleep last week. Perhaps the drawing will be a nice keepsake for Smokey’s owner.
I painted Mike the pitbull for Mo. I think I did it a bit too soon following Mike’s passing. She opened the gift box and immediately burst into heartbroken tears.
I won’t write today. And that’s good because I will get to spend the day coloring and reading my book club book, Eowyn Ivey’s The Snow Child. It’s a spellbinding story set against the icy backdrop of a 1920s Alaska winter. A despairing childless couple, in an unusual moment of levity, builds a child out of snow. In the morning the snow girl is gone, but they glimpse a young child running through the woods. It reads like a frigid fairy tale.