Things I Need to Hear

Sooooooooo … I had a bit of a breakdown last night. I’m not quite sure how to classify it: Mental breakdown? Nervous breakdown? Emotional breakdown? Manic episode?  Whatever it was, it was wild and rollicking and high-pitched and ugly.

It was not, however, connected to OCD. So, there’s a victory.

It was connected to my next novel. I have a first draft but it’s terrifically first-drafty, with so much work needed that it feels insurmountable. When you see my post about “showing up” later this week, you’ll think I’m a hypocrite, but yesterday, it really felt like staring at an elephant that was so big it filled my viewfinder. And there I was, holding a fork, with the instructions to start eating.  Where do you start?

In addition, there are some very dear people in my life who are dealing with health concerns right now, so worrying about a revision felt like complaining about a stubbed toe in contrast with their much larger concerns. I felt wildly overwhelmed and terribly selfish and utterly alone in the world.

I sent out a call for help to my team, and received many texts and phone calls, proving how not alone I am. Des even invited me over to her place (two buildings over), so I spent a couple hours with her, calming down from the fever-pitch wildness of my night.

So, what do I need to tell myself?

I have my First Draft Manifesto. I think I need a Second Draft one too.

It would say this: Jackie, be kind to yourself. Writing is a long, arduous, difficult, but rewarding process, and almost nothing comes to you easily. You have to fight for it all, and you do that by showing up, day after day, sitting down, and doing hard work. You eat an elephant one bite at a time, and to be honest, it’s probably irrelevant where you start: toes, ears, tail. Bring salt.

But really, salt is prayer, friends, and courage that looks an awful lot like fear. It’s easy to confuse the two, but courage is fear that keeps showing up to work.

You can do that. It will look different on different days, and that is perfectly fine.

Please remember that you love this. The writing life is a mysterious amalgam of your choosing it and its choosing you. That feels almost holy.

This process necessitates many steps backward. It’s an inherent part of the journey, and that means that even steps backward are steps forward. And that fits with your worldview too, you know: all things working for good.

Keep your hands and heart and mind open to grace, which is more abundant than you ever seem to realize.

And find the joy in this journey. Please. There is so much there, and sometimes you let fears and doubts scream so loudly that you can’t hear the laughter. Listen for it.

Be gentle with yourself. You’re not alone. Not ever.

So there’s that. Thank you for letting me sit down and process this with you, dear blog readers.  Any encouragement you’d like to leave in the comments section will be gobbled up like it’s a Thanksgiving feast.  By the way, I made the decision last night to spend Thanksgiving alone, back up in Duluth, attending to my story. I feel good about it.