After applying to another job, I decide to call it for the day. The worn leather sofa gives under my weight with a familiar umphah – an auditory reassurance that translates to “No, I’m not going to buckle beneath you. Even after those cupcakes.”
Toby whines to get on the sofa. His paw misdirects just so that he punches me in the nuts. I inhale sharply. Nonplussed, he stares expectantly, grunting a bit and trying to propel his stubby legs and body up onto the cushions. I acquiesce to cuteness overload and pull him up, excusing his gas as I do.
Our tower fan hums quietly, pulling in the chilled air and amplifying street noise filtering up through the open windows. Somewhere below us on 11th Avenue, a man uses a loudspeaker to rap about a cat, his score full of bellowed meows blended with a synthesized ice cream truck jingle. Toby pricks his ears at the loud meows, but seemingly remembers that he’s well enough away from the street to be comfortably unimpressed. A police siren pierces the jingle’s chorus, and the song is no more.
Unlike earlier in the week, the sky is an overcast grayish-white – giving the appearance that we’re floating in a cloud bank. Despite the lack of sun, it’s pleasantly soothing – preferred, in fact, to the hot days. The smell of steaming pretzel rolls from the restaurant downstairs fills the living room momentarily, and I salivate to such a degree that Pavlov himself would applaud. I think about the ramekins of cheese sauce that usually accompany the hearty, salty rolls and close my eyes. The granola bar I just ate doesn’t quite stack up.
A small pile of books sits on the kitchen table, and I’m nearly done with one of them. I bought them earlier this week for both pleasure and research. Because it seems that writing a memoir isn’t just that – there’re all sorts of comp background checks and other things to be done. Which is understandable, but somewhat deflating. Just when I think the hard part is over, it just means the real work begins. And that’s fine. I just have to keep going.
Post-move writing is always a bit difficult. Moving is hard, regardless of whatever I tell myself and no matter how exciting the new place happens to be. In a way, writing now becomes more of a chore – because at least with moving prep, I had an excuse for being a bit lax with the whole process. And every now and then, we all need breaks – welcomed respites from the grind of trying to achieve a long-held goal. But now that the dust has literally settled, it’s time to get back to it.
Re-reading my “final” manuscript draft yet again is terribly anxiety-inducing. So many questions bubble to the surface:
What if it’s horrible?
Is it long enough?
What if I don’t believe in it anymore?
What if I have nothing to really say?
What if it’s just not funny or engaging?
I’ve answered all these before – whilst gutting former iterations of this manuscript and reassembling the salvageable chapters into my own version of Frankenstein’s monster.
This time, it has to live – breathe with what I’ve given it.
And I think it does. Sure, I’ll have to give it CPR once the lovely agent I’ve yet to convince to believe in me returns it with plenty of red marks and a few “Gurl, you crazeh! Work on this shit” comments in the margins. But for now, I’m trying to focus on the less fun parts of getting an agent to notice me – developing a query letter and proposal. These things aren’t nearly as fun, mostly because they require me to look back down my long road of writing and ask myself more hard questions:
Who will want to read this?
Why did I write it?
Why am I the best person to write about this stuff?
Will anyone buy this, and how is this going to be marketed?
All these and more. To reconsider them is incredibly daunting and frustrating to say the least. Because it’s hard to critically assess my manuscript as a commodity – as something to buy and sell, as something other than memories and lessons sandwiched between [nonexistent] covers. What’s more, I have to have confidence and sell myself and it. I have to toot my own horn without overdoing it, clearly understand my competition and where this manuscript fits in, and stand by it no matter what. It’s all easier said than done.
But tripping over the what-ifs and fretting about its appeal are exercises in madness. Because what writer or wannabe hasn’t had the exact same concerns? From what I’ve read, it seems that this is the stage where most people fall off the wagon and never get back on – their fears and apprehensions get the better of them, and they don’t pursue this dream; or they think they don’t need to put in the extra work, and let the subsequent criticism sideline them indefinitely. Or worse, they remain in the “Oh, it just needs a little more work” purgatory and never escape.
Writing, and aspiring to be a writer, are two very different things. But as long as I keep this passion going, keep stoking these fiery-hot embers, I’ll make it. I’ve got to.