Through the first week of August, the kids went to camp while at home or the public library I struggled to focus on my work. In my free time, instead of reading books, I scrolled through my Twitter feed, seeking some kind of inspiration and (foolishly) reassurance about the future of our country. This tweet sums up my state of mind at the time.
— Brittany Means (@BrittanyMeansIt) July 23, 2016
The struggle on the page is the struggle with myself, and the struggle with myself is over what I want to do with my writing. I keep forgetting the true nature of this struggle. I tend to think that the struggle is to answer the question of what I want to do with my writing, but in truth I figured out the answer to that question long ago. I keep running away from the answer because doing what is required demands not just that I make time to do the work, but that I be vulnerable. Do I really want to put myself out there?
Lately I’ve been thinking about Adam Sandler’s character in Punch-Drunk Love, particularly the bright blue suit he wears throughout the movie. Although he might think he’s found the most suitable outfit to wear (a blue suit!), the color of the suit is all wrong (“the blue that your mother used to spread on the other half of the peanut butter sandwich,” writes critic Stuart Klawans). He’s clueless, and everyone can see his mistake.
What obvious but invisible-to-me mistakes am I making? I’m certain that I’m making many, in everyday life as well as in my writing. As a writer, I have an option that’s not available to me in everyday life: I could hide. I could write only for myself or give up writing altogether. But I’m tired of keeping so much of myself to myself. It’s actually painful. And so I take up the other option: to fumble onward, accepting that I will make mistakes.
In the second week of August, we went to the lake. During vacation, my anxiety subsided, and in the weeks since it hasn’t returned, even though I’ve had plenty to worry about — keeping up with freelance gigs while the kids are at home! I don’t expect the calm to last, but who knows. The kids’ return to school this week will be a relief, but with the school year also begins a busier, darker time. Perhaps a few new pens and notebooks (which I need anyway) will remind me that it’s a time of promise as well.