“The neighbors wanted stacks of MISSING posters for every person they lost, even themselves. Missing: former self. Distinguishing marks: expectations of fame, ability to demand love. Last seen wearing: hopeful expression, uncomfortable shoes.” ~ Thunderstruck & Other Stories by Elizabeth McCracken
Do you ever feel like you have lost your former self and would like to find her? What were her expectations and abilities? What interests did she pursue before she was told to not be silly — to come out of the clouds and be realistic?
I wanted to be a writer. Perhaps work as a librarian on the side, on my practical, bring home a regular paycheck side. But that wasn’t practical enough.
“Learn to type and take stenography,” I was told, so I could get my foot in the door and maybe work my way up to being a secretary for a VP or even a CEO!
I was a horrible secretary. I rewrote everything I was given. I completely reorganized reports. I knew what was good, clear communication and what was not. So revise I did.
As much as I thought this would have be appreciated, it was not.
“Why don’t you become a technical writer?” my boss asked, handing me a job posting.
Technical Writing… well, at least it was writing. I was tempted to add jokes. See if anyone noticed. Perhaps create a plot where I would tell the mechanic who was following my instructions that once upon a time, the screw he had just removed, had once been a royal pain in the ass. This particular screw had become lost in the woods and was found by a princess. The princess placed it on the chair of a prince she was being forced to marry. The prince’s face resembled dog vomit and he laughed like a toad if a toad ever decided to laugh. He was said to be a “good match” for the princess.
The prince walked over to his chair and sat down, quickly springing back up with a croaking cry, spilling wine and baked beans all over the King. The prince yanked the screw out of his ass and threw it out the castle window. One day, a great builder of paint sprayers found it. He exclaimed, “This is just the size I needed! Now I do not need to walk a thousand miles to town to buy a screw! It is truly my lucky day!”
Alas, that sort of nonsense would have upped the page count, along with breaking a number of other “best practice” rules.
Now that I’ve retired, my former self wants to be let out of the closet where I’ve kept her, a paisley handkerchief stuffed into her mouth and a matching blind-fold covering her eyes. I needed to prevent her from seeing how badly I was failing her and silence her banshee cries. Of course she knew. She always knew.
I recently read “Welcome to the Writer’s Life” by Paulette Perhach. It’s written for people just beginning their writing life or for those like me, who have been at it for a long time but have found themselves mired in the muck.
Muck can take the form of lost faith in your abilities, the “who do you think you are” complex, or the feeling that everything you’ve tried to progress forward has failed and you don’t know what to do next. And what about the wear and tear of life? Sometimes, we’re just tired.
Paulette’s book is full of information on how to build a writing life. She focuses on progressing with your writing skills by building a writing practice and a reading practice. She explains how to improve your writing craft, run your writing business, and how all of these things tie together into a writing life.
I won’t go on and on about it because not everyone who is reading this is a writer, but for those of you who are, “Welcome to the Writer’s Life” is a great book to read.
For those of you who are not writers, have you locked a part of your former self into a closet or misplaced her altogether? Would you like to reacquaint yourself with a former interest that you had? What would be the first step to doing so?
You could possibly take a community class on it. See if there are any meetup groups doing the thing. Read a book on it. Watch a YouTube video. Just start doing it. Use your imagination and above all else, relax and enjoy. Don’t make it another thing you use to beat yourself up about. Think like a five-year-old. I know you can do it.
At least, that is the pep talk I give to myself.
Odds and Ends
- My solution to clothing with no pockets – a tool belt. This tool belt is likely an antique; it belonged to my father. I carry a notebook and pen to jot down things that pop into my head. I also carry my phone and a handkerchief (the paisley one that I had stuffed into my former self’s mouth, washed, of course). Women should storm hardware stores and make tool belts a thing – a fashion protest against women’s pocketless or too small pocket clothing. Of course, if the stores catch on to this, they’ll create a women-specific line of tool belts and charge 8% more than they do for the men’s version.
- Interested in starting a running program? A podcast “Run Selfie Repeat” by Kellie Roberts is helping me start up my running program again. I’m not a running-lover, which is an odd way to put it and brought a strange visual into my head. What I mean is that running is part of my building bones program and Kellie makes it tolerable. She guides you through a gentle and encouraging program of jogging and walking intervals, talking you through the whole workout. You can search for “Run Selfie Repeat” podcast on whatever application you use to listen to podcasts. Look for her Guided Runs and start with Day 1. Good lord, I just sounded like a commercial…
- “Lines on Retirement, after Reading Lear,” poem by David Wright. Okay, so King Lear’s story did not end well, but still, this poem on retirement made me laugh.