“That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.”
Normally, that phrase is said with irony after some outlandish statement. (“This cake contains anti-oxidant laden dark chocolate, plus protein rich milk and eggs. Therefore, it makes perfect sense for me to be shoveling it in my mouth at six-thirty in the morning. Pretty sure Jillian Michaels eats a slice right before she bench presses a truck.”)
I have definitely used sticking to my story in defense of breakfast cake (and will continue to do so). But I’ve also employed it in some less frivolous scenarios. Like sticking to a story I really wanted to write when it just wasn’t working.
I have a good friend who once had a severe gambling addiction. At one point, her habit put her so far in debt that she stopped opening her mail because she couldn’t do anything about the bills that kept piling up. She took out multiple payday loans until she finally got turned down for one.
The day that happened, she had a nearly zero balance in her bank account.
After slamming into the proverbial rock bottom, she joined Gamblers Anonymous. She turned her life around, and went on to help many other women do the same. I was – and still am – so incredibly proud of her.
I remember thinking, “Wow, this would make a great novel if I just fictionalized it!” It was dramatic, raw and an extremely personal tale. I couldn’t imagine there wasn’t an audience for it.
Without much additional thought beyond that, I forged blindly ahead.
Never mind that if I won $50 in a slot machine, I would freak out like a game show contestant, squirrel away my bounty and call it a night.
That I gave up blackjack upon realizing that having to repeatedly count to 21 was too much for my math phobic brain.
And I didn’t even know how to play poker.
But, yes, I was going to write an entire book about the horrors of gambling addiction.
So, I spent months outlining the novel. Created a full cast of characters. Hung out in casinos. Even interviewed a gambling addiction therapist.
But when it came time to write the story…I just couldn’t do it.
And I berated myself endlessly for it.
What’s wrong with you? What about all the time you’ve spent? You’ve got the outline complete! Just suck it up and write the damned thing!
It seemed to have all the seeds of success. But the more I stared at my piles of research, synopses, etc., the more I became mired in my misgivings.
The bottom line was, I was clinging to something that came from my head, not my heart.
So I let it go.
Sticking too long with a fictional tale that stalled out wasn’t the end of the world. I learned a lot about who I am as a writer. And I can always pull it out of mothballs if I feel the calling.
But I have also stuck to stories that didn’t work for me in real life.
I know the importance of a good narrative. And I like to think that when I’m writing a book or a screenplay, I’m spinning a pretty good tale.
Engaging. Interesting. Uplifting.
But when it comes to my own life, sometimes the tales I spin are not the best.
Critical. Doubtful. Fearful.
I don’t know how to be a business person.
I’m so far from where I should be in my writing life.
I am a technological idiot.
That last one almost derailed my efforts to start this blog.
I knew deep down for years that I needed to put my writing out there online. And I received countless feedback from others that confirmed what my gut kept telling me:
Stop being terrified of everything you don’t understand. Your fears are keeping you frozen.
But, because my perfectionistic streak is a mile wide, I decided that anything less than being a programmer equaled complete and utter incompetence.
God forbid I should put out anything less than the greatest website ever known to mankind.
I am going to look so stupid next to all these pro bloggers with 50 billion followers.
I’d better wait until I have a full understanding of all aspects of social media before I unveil myself.
As I write this, I am hugely embarrassed that I ever thought this way. Don’t get me wrong, I am still scared to death of half the things I do…especially when it comes to technology.
But at least now I’ve gotten over myself and accepted the fact that not being able to wax poetic on the virtues of SEO or thinking that a “plug-in” is an air freshener doesn’t make me a moron. (Okay, maybe that second one does.)
But I am who I am.
I live with techie butterflies in my stomach almost daily.
I still pray every time I open WordPress that I don’t click on anything that will send my site into cyber oblivion.
But I’m doing the best I can. And I’m having a really good time along the way.
And that’s a story I can stick with.