I act so free and knowing and brave. But I’m not. I’m scared shitless. Of the demons of my past. Of paths I forged because of them. Of roads I didn’t take. Of parts of me that shut down to keep out the pain. Of how they all might converge at some shadowy bend on the horizon of my future and run me off the road as the regret monsters on a deserted life highway lurch out of the darkness and gobble me up.
I’m no surer of anything now than when I was a speck of hydrogen dust on the universe’s windshield. Or maybe that’s when I knew the most. Maybe we all did. Maybe the curse of being born is forgetting all the secrets we knew before because the earthly baggage gets piled on top of us for so long that we can’t remember how light we were when we first came in. The fear sets in because we’re sitting at the bottom of a goddamned cargo hold when we’re meant to be gazing out the window.
I find myself constantly wanting to dig past the shit, hoping to get to the end of the compartment, where l’ll hit something solid. I’ll knock on it like a door. I’m not just searching for what feels sturdy, but looking for the me that’s hidden somewhere inside that overloaded vehicle. The me that started as that speck of awareness barnacled to the windshield watching the whole of the galaxy hurtle past. The me that truly is free and knowing and brave.
I’ve been writing my second novel while I try and get representation for the first one. This time feels different. I’m on the same road, still trying to light a path in the dark, but now I know I’ll get to the end of it because I’ve done it before. If finishing a book the first time was like driving at midnight in a hailstorm with broken headlights, this time is like driving at midnight in a hailstorm with at least one janky headlight flickering. It’s still messy, but it’s also just enough to know you’re gonna get there.
This second time around has also taught me trust. In the storymaking process. In the profound importance of what I’ll call the “adhesive” phase; when you exist in an excessively heightened state of awareness and openness and presence. In this phase, word counts might still be uncomfortably modest, and no idea feels holdable or articulable or maintainable yet. It can be frustrating because you’re essentially just operating as the human version of a sticky trap, catching every curiosity or fascination as it buzzes by and letting it bind to you like a freshly splattered gnat on a sweaty summer night in the subtropics.
Nothing is to be wasted, nothing is to be thrown out at this stage, because though it may seem like you’re now just some flat piece of useless glue with a bunch of random insects ensnared in you, the truth is that somewhere in that buggy graveyard is the story you will tell. The adhesive that is holding together all of the as yet unrelated parts—through some strange inconceivable alchemy—becomes conductive, inducing a current of word electricity within you. The lesson is knowing that the story you’re meant to tell will likely start as an almost imperceptible gnat stuck in the glue of your psyche. But you’ve gotta get sticky first.
Tear-jerking ambition. Agonizing, pulverizing doubt. Unwavering effort. Cavernous labyrinths of insecurity. Glimmering clifftops of inspiration. Boggy sinkholes of confusion and paranoia. Abject terror at thought of exposing deepest truths. Wildly inflated self-image. Unabatable joy over one flawlessly chosen word. Divine contentment knowing one perfectly constructed sentence is somehow going to save the world. Even if only my own. Lurking suspicion that I’m a hopeless impostor. Inexplicable rising confidence. Doubt again. Paralyzing fear of eternal rejection. Continued effort amidst creeping progress. White-knuckling any escaping belief and willing it to remain in my clutches. Preparedness. Overpreparedness. More work. More doubt. More fear. More hope. More joy. More criticism. More words on the page. The courage to submit. The desperation. The hope. The rejection. More work. Hope. Hope. More work. And hope. And clutching. Clutching. Believing.