Monday, March 9, 2015

10 Ways to Tell on Yourself

1. Tell everyone you meet that you're writing a book so that over the course of 20+ years of starting, stopping, starting over, throwing the whole thing out and starting again you'll feel accountable to the entire world and just keep going! Even when you're broke and everyone thinks you're insane!

2. Confess your deepest, most humiliating secrets to a sponsor in a 12 step recovery program because she promises that you will eventually stop destroying your life if you do. 

3. Practice writing the truth of your life in your most private journals, even when doing so forces you to relive in great detail certain episodes from your very recent Jerry Springer/Greek Tragedy past. 

4. Start actually sharing your stories, first in intimate groups of other writers and then in slightly more public forums, like, say first person columns on the internet. 

5. After 5 years of writing and teaching writing, when you are a) completely overwhelmed by all the stories you want to tell, b) blown away by the stories of your students and c) have recently been informed by a psychic that if you want to become an international bestseller you should launch a new website that will create the structure for your book, the answer's simple. Try everything else first. Feng Shui, essential oils, vision boards, diets, procrastination, bargaining, cleaning, pleading, self help books, prayer AND THEN launch your new website. Ask for help and be blown away by the quality and kindness of help you receive. Watch with wonder as your new site creatse the vessel you've been looking for to sail your writing and the writing of those around you for the last 10 or 30 years. Pinch yourself as it becomes something beautiful. Receive submissions that make you laugh, cry and praise Baby Jesus. Wonder what took you so long.

6. Feel like you are featured in the New York Times Book Review when the arts & culture editor from the local alternative weekly where you worked for years asks for an interview. As soon as he calls, forget everything you wanted to say but say some other things instead. Flush with pride when you appear in an article called Writing Flashes. Think, "at long last I know what Oprah feels like."  Check THAT one off your bucket list. 

7. FREAK OUT when you learn you won an award for which you will have to get your picture taken. Dry heave. Cry. Call all your friends. Listen as they talk you back from the brink. Have a good laugh when your husband says "well, maybe you could just stop thinking about yourself." HAHAHAHA! What a comedian! Pray that one day you can just stop thinking about yourself. In the meantime, take your pastor friend's advice. When the camera shoots, concentrate on what's inside instead of what's out. Pray that one day the two will come together and that you can just keep telling on yourself and asking for help until they do. 

8. At the award;s ceremony, stand on stage with women in heels and well known names, with make-up and money and prestige and feel your place as one of them, not better or worse, but as a woman devoted to her craft with both a lot of luck and a lot of determination, come hell or high water, rejection or failure or boils and frogs with sporadic health insurance and no guarantees, who has continued to tell on herself, to turn herself inside out, to search for her truth, one layer at a time. Cry as they call your name. Read your acceptance speech and feel, at least for that day that you wouldn't have one single thing about your life any other way.

9. Begin reading and transcribing 30+ journals no matter how badly you want to scream, sob, or make a large sacrifice to the Gods of Giving Up as you do. Keep reading even as you squirm from the discomfort of seeing yourself in black and white. Watch as the narrative arc, the internal structure, the plot line that carried you through- both your journals- and your life- begins to unfold. Recognize the incomparable beauty of the truth.

10. Keep telling on yourself and asking for help. Ditto, repeat. Keep telling on yourself and asking for help. Doing this doesn't guarantee you will become perfect or that it will be easy or that you are home free, but I do believe, if keep doing this, you are well on your way.