twenty-six (or, space-weasels, aloe, and the deeply confusing blackberry patch of the mind)
Things are a little nuts here in real actual Hilary-land, because Techie Boyfriend and I have just decided to go to Morocco for the winter and possibly forever. Naturally, we have allotted ourselves approximately four and a half minutes in which to move out of our mountain cabin, renew our passports, and find a new home for our long-suffering Norfolk pine, because lots of panicked last-minute scrambling is just how we roll. If you live in Northern California and would like a Norfolk pine, as well as an aloe plant and several rain sticks (don’t ask) please get in touch.
This last year has been an interesting one, if by interesting you mean challenging, and if by challenging you mean “characterized by a constant parade of self-imposed crises.” I’ve never been an agonizer. I chose my university based on a glance at a pretty photograph. I moved in with Techie Boyfriend a few days after meeting him on a hitchhiking trip to San Francisco. I started writing the INTERN blog fifteen minutes after hatching the idea for it. I can’t even remember how I started writing WILD AWAKE—it just sort of happened. I was never conscious of Making Decisions—I always just did things and they always seemed to work out.
But this year…this year’s been different. This year, it feels like there’s nothing I haven’t agonized over. Where to live. How to write a second novel that will please everyone in the universe, including Martians and Venusians and moon-people and space-weasels. Whether Techie Boyfriend and I should work for the moneys so we can eventually buy a piece of land, or if we should spend these years frolicing and being poor and freaking out because we never know where to live and our van is leaking in six places.
I realized I am angry at myself almost all the time. I am so inefficient! I waste so much time! Every day that goes by is another day in which I have not written the manuscript to end all manuscripts, have not figured out whether forty acres on a steep and flammable hillside is really a good idea, have not hatched an ingenius business scheme that will allow Techie Boyfriend to play his tanpura all day and never program again. Some days I feel like I’ve killed my own spirit, murdered whatever it was that let me write and hitchhike and fall in love. I used to be blithely unaware that there were such things as “wrong decisions,” but this year I’ve seen them for the first time, pressing around me like ghosts. I have become anxious, and angry at myself for being anxious. It’s a poisonous loop. Bad trip-esque: What if I’m stuck this way forever?!
But what I’m starting to think, trusted reader, is that this loop has nothing to do with forever and everything to do with being twenty-six and encountering new pressures—real, imaginary and straight-up hallucinated—for the first time. It has been scary. And, far from charging triumphantly into my new identities as Author and Adult and Person Who Should Really Know Where to Live, I’ve spent most of the year bushwhacking around this deeply confusing blackberry patch of false starts and second guesses. My internal compass is way fucked up, and I’m only starting to repair it. There are so many these things I’ve gotten backwards and upside down, and my brain sort of feels like the scene of a crime or a violent party I can hardly remember attending but must now clean up as gently as possible.
Things change when you get a book deal. Things change when you start weighing a million possible combinations of work and freedom and money and no-money and present versus future time. Things change when you’re twenty-six and have somehow fallen into the illusion (silly you!) that you not only can make the “right” decisions, but must.
I clicked “new post” with the intention of writing a fun personal update about Morocco and announcing the cover reveal for WILD AWAKE, which is happening on Monday, and in celebration of which I will be giving away query critiques and hand-written postcards from Fez and possibly a few rain sticks and one aloe plant, slightly damaged. But now that I’ve written this post, I think I really will be ready to celebrate in a way I wouldn’t have been before.
In the meantime, I would like to know: how have you gotten out of your own loops, writing-related and otherwise? What’s the one thing that kills your creativity, and what brings it back to life? Is there any way to avoid falling into these bad trips, or are they a fact of life? Links on this subject appreciated!