Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Internet source unknown

The calliope sounds. Rise and run. At least that's what Ray Bradbury says. Run! This, I promise myself, I will do every morning. Not along the paved roads of this tidy suburban town, not along the park's grasses, but along the dark and dulled keys of my laptop. Along the crevices and couloirs of my cranium.

With champion intentafter first getting beyond the email flurry, the deletions, additions and responses, and any other immediate business, like say, Facebook, blog hopping, reading the paperstrusting I can do this, I open a word doc and stare at the empty white space between the margins. For a long time. And proceed to get angry with myself. Inevitably, broken, frustrated, I find something else to do.

Why? Because I doubt myself. I doubt I'll ever polish a story lustrous enough to shine upon the surface of print. I read other writers and think, Christ, I'll never be that good. What I think, is that I showed up at the feast much too late. So I come to the table expecting not to be fed. I find only morsels of grain which I casually swipe off the table top! What kind of behavior is that? With that sort of attitude, I should be grounded for the weekend. No phone. No friends. No television (which might help).

And then I lift my hand to find stale food particles clinging to the sweaty creases of my palm, teasing my hunger.

So what I've got is a whole bunch of short stories that I've yet to seriously edit. And even more to begin. Begin. This is work, dammit. And instead I blog and find other diversions. I'm guilty. I'm mad at me. And I ought to apologize.

I have a manila folder labeled "The Sorry File" in which letters of apology are stored. My kids are good at apologizing. So good that their handwritten apology letters warrant a special file. Like this one (with my son's permission):

Some day, when they're grown and have children of their own, I'll mail their apology letters to themjust as my mother returns all my little handmade letters, coupons, notes and articles to me. They are also tucked in a folder, a reminder of a time, in my very innocent Catholic school girl days, when all I wanted was to be a writer.

Back then I was crafting things like Smokey Bear posters with crayon on a piece of five foot wide white industrial paper from a roll on a dowel fastened to our garage wall. And McGovern for President propaganda (McGovern for Pres., You've got to confess, You want McGovern!) on spiral bound notepads. I thought for sure my campaign would guarantee the Office to McGovern. Hell, who wanted Nixon for a second term? There was also an illustrated ant invasion story. (Yeck.) In high school I joined the Villa Novans newspaper and wrote articles. I believed I'd be a writer.

And then my sister went to school for journalism. And my brother went to school for communications. And when it was finally my time to go to college, well, I had to do something different. I couldn't follow the same path as my older siblings! Don't copy me! (No one ever said it but I feared hearing it.) I had to do my own thing, though I didn't know what that meant.

I remember telling my guidance counselor I wanted to be a writer, not a journalist, but a writer. He didn't say so, but he didn't seem to think that a writer was a bona-fide profession. He smiled his you're-so-sweetly-naive-young-lady-how-will-you-make-a-living-from-that smile and responded by suggesting (based on my vocational assessment testbut certainly not my grades) that I might make a good lawyer, or social worker, that my skills would translate well to child development and counseling. And I let myself believe that. For a long time.

I went into social work. I entered the legal field. I didn't write. (Except for contracts, briefs, affidavits and other sorts of exciting legal instruments.)

But I don't blame my guidance counselor or anyone else for my failure to write, for letting the desire to rise each day and run dissipate like escaping steam from a pressure cooker. Just me. Guilty. Even more so now that I have a little more time to devote to the craft.

Here, I apologize to myself. That was stupidwaiting so long. I'm very sorry. What I really need is courage, a better work ethic and production quotas.

As Bradbury says, To feed well is to grow. I'll take his advicemore reliable than the old guidance counselor I'll open the lid of that cooker. Let the steam out. Breath in the salty stew of words and phrases and ideas. Taste the modified nouns and verbs. Fill myself with pungent and moist hyperbole. Stop writing about me not writing. And write. Dammit.

I hope my son won't ever have to apologize for not following his dream, nor ever let anyone smile a you're-such-a-naive-nice-boy-how-will-you-make-a-living-from-that smile. Art is, indeed, a bona-fide vocation. Listen to the calliope, I tell him. Rise and run.


  1. You have a wonderful voice. And you are not alone in your feelings and doubts. Keep following your dream. It's obviously what you were meant to do.

    PS- looks like your son takes after you with the writing! That's pretty darn good.

  2. You just wrote a well-written post. Just keep writing, it will come.

  3. Very beautifully crafted and genuine, a voice I can really identify, as I was told to be a lawyer when I was five and wanted to be a writer. (I didn't become a lawyer either, that would have been cool).

    On doubts, you told me once to "pur-lease (please) stop doing this to yourself". Back at you Jayne.

  4. It takes courage to follow your dream. Not everyone finds either the courage or the dream right away. But when you find it, never let it go. Hold on for the ride. It will never be boring.

  5. Dear Jayne,

    What comes across to me is someone who is so at home with words.

    Your posts are always beautifully put together and it is a pleasure to read them.

    Keep on keeping on.

  6. persevere.

    but I too am easily distracted away from what I should be doing.

  7. Doubt is only our conscience reminding us we have more to begin, to do, to believe.

    I'm standing here cheering you on, just go girl, DO IT! No apology needed. :)
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

  8. Write, write, write...

    No apologies. No regrets.


  9. And yet, when I read your blog posts, I think "Self, this lady is a WRITER. Pay attention."
    Knock the doubt out of the way and fill that blank white space with words. Even if they're not quite right, lightning bug instead of lightning, they can be revised later...just get them out of your fingertips!

  10. It's never too late. I know you know I know this. We're talking nev-ah ev-ah too late. And I think it's even sweeter when it happens later. You're so talented, Jayne. You are already a writer. With an appreciative audience. Keep writing. Believe. Unplug sometimes if you have to. (I do.) But mostly, keep writing.

  11. When you say you read other people's writing and say that you will never write that well... be assured that you do. You truly are gifted.

    I love your son's little poem. A "way with words" must run in your family.

  12. Well, only you know for sure if you owe yourself an apology like this. The rest of us don't know what's really motivating you at the keyboard and blank screen at a given moment; we know only what we see, some time later, if it becomes a blog post.

    At least a half-dozen phrases and longer passages in this post vibrate with such finely balanced sound and sense that I really, really wish you'd have just waited and let me discover them (or not!) on my own once-blank screen. :) On the strength of this writing session's product alone, you might want to reconsider your doubts.

    Given how little time I have to write each day, I'd prefer to focus on fiction to the exclusion of anything else. But that's a misleading goal, because I'm not writing primarily to honor myself -- my own aspirations -- but to honor the Muse. If she's not telling me, I'm not remotely satisfied with what you put on the screen today, then I don't consider it wasted effort. The next day, or the day after that -- when I get back to my story -- the tools of the trade will have been shaped and sharpened just as well from having written something else, y'know?

  13. S- Thanks for that. Yes, my son is gifted with a highly creative mind. Art is really his thing, but that kid can write, too!

    Anatares- Don't I ever need a good kick in the bum, eh?

    Shopgirl- You got me. I think herding kids toward law school was trendy back then. I know a lot of unhappy lawyers. ;)

    Carol- Aaahhh! I'd like to say I just had an off day, and delete this post from my blog, but the truth is, I'm usually bent toward the off day. Maybe I'm not build for fiction. It's hard to say just yet.

    SF- I will! Keep on keeping on... Is there any alternative? :)

    Ellen- No kidding, I think I need Ritalin!

    Jules- Ugh! Darn conscience. You do know how to cheer, though, my friend. Thank you for that.

  14. PaulV- Thanks for that support. I wasn't intentionally calling for it, but looking back, my subconscious was surely telling me I needed help! :)

    Danger- Out of the fingertips! You're right, of course. One of thing that trips me up is that I often analyze what I'm writing as I'm writing. I need to let it just happen, and take it apart later. I'll try!

    Seré- LOL! I make a lot of excuses for myself. One of them is that I have such fragmented time in which to write. I can't often block off a whole day- or even a morning. Some things, I know I can let go, but other, like my children, need a lot of tending. I've got to work on cloistering myself for a decent chunk of time and, like you said, unplug.
    Keep me posted on how you're doing. I've been back to your blog but having seen an update--which means you are probably in the midst of making it all come to market! (And zipping around, of course.) ;)

    Cheryl- Thank you. If only could only get that in my head. I tend to hear a different voice, one I need to smother! And yes, we're passionate about our writing in this family!

  15. Oh JES- What I'm doing is reconsidering my judgment! Right after I hit the publish button I was afraid that what I'd done was beg for sympathy--feared it would appear as such, anyway. The support here certainly makes me feel good, but that wasn't my motivation for writing.
    I think you've hit the proverbial nail on the head. It's about honoring that muse, whoever she might be at the time. And writing anything!, even when the pantry's picked clean, is an attempt to do that.
    I’ve been having trouble finding my muse lately. Maybe my telescope is out of focus. Or the lens is marred by dints. Maybe it's not fiction (which is, as described in a previous post, a white-knuckled drive through the snowstorm) on which I should focus. Whatever it is, I struggle with it.
    As it turned out, yesterday exasperation seemed to be my muse, the rouse that rankled the exposition. And so I went to something else. And as you so eloquently pointed out, at least I did that. I’m realizing now it wasn’t a waste. Thanks for the reminder.
    And you know something else, Jess? I haven’t questioned my aspirations. I’m not even sure what they are other than to keep writing. Perhaps that’s the real trouble? Perhaps I’m just afraid to say that I’d like to see a piece of mine published someday. Then there’s trying to live up to that. It ain’t easy… ;)

  16. a good stiff drink will erase your self doubts.

    maybe smoking a few pall malls like my favorite author frequently mentioned will help.

  17. I can tell you from long painful experience that being a lawyer was soul crushing.

    I long remember something that the otherwise loathsome Carlos Castaneda wrote, that I think is apt:

    "Look at every path closely and deliberately. Try it as many times as you think necessary. Then ask yourself, and yourself alone, one question. This question is one that only a very old man asks. My benefactor told me about it once when I was young, and my blood was too vigorous for me to understand it. Now I do understand it. I will tell you what it is: Does this path have a heart? All paths are the same: they lead nowhere. They are paths going through the bush. In my own life I could say I have traversed long, long paths, but I am not anywhere. My benefactor’s question has meaning now. Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn’t, it is of no use. Both paths lead nowhere; but one has a heart, the other doesn’t. One makes for a joyful journey; as long as you follow it, you are one with it. The other will make you curse your life. One makes you strong; the other weakens you."

  18. Aww Jayne, that in itself is a beautifully honest portrait of the life of the writer...and very akin to mine.
    I too have notebooks oozing with ideas and fragments. Crumbs, if you may, of ideas and thoughts that were brushed away and ended up in the deep dark recess of some part of my brain.
    Compared to you though I am small fry. You have a great voice and this is the place to practice because there is a community that actively follow.
    Now, enough of this nonsense. Put finger to keyboard and type. You are a writer period.
    And when your all famous and stuff I will be able to go, 'oh yes, I remember her in her formative days and knew she would make it' and you will include me in your acknowledgements page of your first collection of writings.
    Well maybe that last part is purely fantasy, but I hope you get my drift,
    Plug away, then plug away some more, you are destined for greatness ;)

  19. Advice from the Derelict: your guidance counselor was right. the day writing becomes a profession you are no longer a writer... yeah i know that sounds like a buddhist koan and maybe it is, i just tossed out a dozen notebooks, put them in the garbage and said farewell, i'll write more... and if i don't i won't worry about it... funny thing is, i never told anyone i wanted to be a writer, people have told me i'm one, but really i'm just a guy who tells stories, be it at the bar or typed out, i've never wanted to be anything really, except maybe an enfant terrible, though now i'd accept the title of good dad. in short, you worry to much.

  20. It’s completely obvious that you are a very gifted writer.

    But, I can identify with self doubt, and believing the wrong people. My parents always encouraged me into a proper nine-to-five job, where I just became more and more miserable. But, I blame myself; why did I listen?

    Still, it’s never too late.

  21. BP- !! Didn't Vonnegut also say Pall Malls were "a classy way to commit suicide."?? I'll take the stiff drink though. ;)

    Laoch- Oh yeah, he was an interesting guy... I like the quote--as I feel I'm done cursing my life. I think, for maybe the first time ever in this half-century I've lived, I'm on the right path. It definitely has a heart. And as difficult as it is, I am enjoying the journey. Guess I'd better stick with it then, huh? :)

    Dan- You're no small fry my friend. Your comments alone are testament to that. I'll tell you what, if I ever manage to get that book published there'll be a handwritten personal acknowledgement thanking the voice from OZ, the coach down under. But you're going to have to come to New England to get your copy. ;)

  22. Kono, Good Dad- Ain't that the truth! I'm the V.P. of Worries. Only problem is that I'm not any good at delegating responsibilities.
    I get the Buddhist Koan anecdote, too. But it wouldn't be so bad if I made a few pennies from my scribble, now would it? Don't worry, I'd never stoop to writing for money. :)

    TBFKA- Well meaning parents as they were, dreams were secondary to practicality. Of course we do have to be productive citizens capable of fending for ourselves. I get that. I don't want my kids mooching off of me when they're grown adults. ;)

  23. I echo everybody else.
    You're a natural Jayne, I've trawled the world of blogger looking for interesting writing and yours is some of the best.
    Your always interesting, often thought provoking and sometimes inspirational.
    Don't listen to the doubts!

  24. I believe you have just posted something worthy of glossy print :)

    Whenever I read Bradbury, I feel COMPELLED to write - as if Ray himself has warned me: "Ignore your 'morning theatre' at your own peril."

    So, Miss Jayne, we continue to write because we must.

  25. I wonder how I missed this post...
    But you know, it's normal to have doubts, and I get those feeling too, about OTHER writers. I'll never write like them. But I've decided, why would I want to? I have my own style, my own voice, and my own story. I LOVE my writing! (And it took a long, long time to get to that point.)
    I am unique. And so WHY would I want to be like THEM?
    My writer's banquet is a pot-luck dinner, and everybody brings a different dish.

  26. My apologies to those whose comments were erased by Blogger here. Your comments/thoughts/ideas mean a lot to me and I want to respond, in general, to thank you for your kind words, perspectives, quips of wisdom. You are all so very generous and encouraging. I hear you loud and clear, and if I'm unproductive I'm letting my fears get the best of me... I've simply no other excuse!
    I'm not sure if any of you were able to see my responses before the Blogger snafu, I responded to each of you individually, and I thank you, once again. SHOPGIRL got me to eat a little crow, which is a good diet once in a while. ;)
    @rc- I've got plenty of morning theatre, I'll do my best not to close the curtain on it. ;)
    @Nessa- I like that take of yours! You are right, we each have our own individual voice, and should appreciate the same as we do others. Thanks for that. :)


  27. Jayne, You have my number, and I have yours. You wrote, "I doubt I'll ever polish a story lustrous enough to shine upon the surface of print. I read other writers and think, Christ, I'll never be that good. What I think, is that I showed up at the feast much too late."
    I could have easily written this because it mirrors my feelings...exactly!
    Funny how we look at other's work and offer them awe and credit for their good writing, yet, when it comes to ourselves, we're often greedy with praise, and crucifyingly critical. What a bunch of crap!
    I think your writing is brilliant and there's not a soul on earth who can say things quite like you! So...stick that in your manilla folder and save it!;)

  28. Love this piece, Jayne. Hits home with a lot of people. Keep writing!

  29. Leah! Heeheehee...I'm going to have to get a new file cabinet! You're too funny. If I had a CP, I'd want her to be you! :)

    Bob- Must have been that H.S. newspaper, huh? Did you hear it calling? Sheesh, how is it that writing was so easy then?? Thanks for visiting--means a lot to me--I know how busy you are w/those bambinos, and writing and all... be well! :)

  30. There is a pettiness about that "too late" voice which causes me to think it might actually be okay. I adhere, foolishly, perhaps, to the notion that if we're thinking of it, dreaming of it, wishing for it, it is still possible. Life demanded that I enlarge my vision, release beliefs about what ought to have happened when...what if everything is in perfect order? I believe our hearts know what is true. You are doing it. There is no single right answer. :D