Sticking To Your Story

“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.

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  • Reply Jennifer Blanchard June 30, 2016 at 5:50 pm

    Haha I love this!!!

    • Reply Mary DeRosa Hughes July 1, 2016 at 7:53 am

      So glad you enjoyed it, Jen! 🙂

  • Reply Pat Akers June 30, 2016 at 6:16 pm

    Here we are more than 20 years later with the same darn fears! Why’s wrong with us?! I can’t defend myself, but knowing you, My Girl, deep down within that brain and heart is a great story. Remember when you said you would write mine? Lol. Just keep your can do it.

    • Reply Mary DeRosa Hughes July 1, 2016 at 8:05 am

      Pat, you are too kind. I appreciate your encouraging words more than you know. And I would still write your story in a heartbeat if you’d let me! 🙂

  • Reply Stephanie Raffelock June 30, 2016 at 6:17 pm

    Been there with the story that comes out of your head and not your heart. Also been there with breakfast cake. It is more likely that I will come to recognize going for the right story to tell long before I forego breakfast cake. Love the wit and pace of this piece. Thanks for pushing publish and not accidentally erasing the whole thing! 😉

    • Reply Mary DeRosa Hughes July 1, 2016 at 8:12 am

      Thanks for the solidarity, Steph! Good to know I’m not the only one who grapples with choosing the right story while standing in defense of breakfast cake. 🙂

  • Reply JD Miller June 30, 2016 at 11:30 pm

    Me, too, Mary…me, too

    • Reply Mary DeRosa Hughes July 1, 2016 at 7:52 am

      Thanks so much, JD! So glad I’m not alone in my thoughts/feelings on this subject. 🙂

  • Reply Linda Fletcher July 1, 2016 at 1:50 pm

    Funny and keep it up…..

    • Reply Mary DeRosa Hughes July 2, 2016 at 6:14 am

      Thanks, Linda! 🙂

  • Reply Norma July 12, 2016 at 8:50 am

    Love you and all your phobias!

    • Reply Mary DeRosa Hughes July 12, 2016 at 10:48 am

      Awww…thanks, Norma! Love you, too! 🙂

  • Reply Elaine F French March 3, 2017 at 6:59 am

    “I am a technological idiot” – you’re still using that one !! – you put in a email only the other day 🙂

    • Reply Mary DeRosa Hughes March 9, 2017 at 11:42 am

      Ah…you caught me, Elaine! I guess I need to stop overusing that phrase…lol! 😉

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