Last night, I had an epiphany for a new short story, and I’m very excited about this! It isn’t that I don’t have ideas for stories all the time, because I do. No. The epiphany came because, well, I realized my mashed potatoes are finally looking ‘right’ to me!
Do you remember the movie, ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind?’ Remember the scene where Richard Dreyfus was building a plate full of mashed potatoes trying to make something he knew in his spirit was correct, but couldn’t put into words, or a plate of mashed potatoes what it was he was trying to show to his wife? Well, last night, I was playing the role of Richard Dreyfus!
A few years ago, I gained knowledge of a place that I know inside of me is real, and yet, in a sense, not real at the same time. Inside of me, I know what it is I want to show you, but I can’t quite make it connect with my words, because I realize, there are no words to describe the essence of that place. For years, I have been trying to find a word that encapsulates the essence of that realm, and maybe I’m not intelligent enough to come up with a description for it. I write, and write about it, but no mere words that I have in my arsenal, or in Webster’s Dictionary can capture what that place is, or to be more exact, what it isn’t. My words are inadequate. I almost feel as though I need to create a new word that will enable me to share the essence of that world, but I haven’t stumbled upon it, or thought of it yet. I’m still working on it, and I’m not going to give up until I find it, and tell the World what I know of that place. Can you say, “tortured Artist?” I know! Talk about obsessive, right? But, that’s me, and I’ve been on a quest for a word, or phrase, something that would capture the essence of that realm, and dang it, I’m going to do it!
Now, all of that to say, last night, as I was talking to my family about this other place I know of, I realized, I’ve been trying to make my mashed potatoes look right so that I can capture the true essence of that realm, and now, remember when Richard Dreyfus finally saw ‘Devils Tower’ (that thing he was trying to build out of his mashed potatoes) with his own eyes for the first time? How it clicked in his spirit that he wasn’t crazy? That the place he sought to show to his wife truly existed? He was vindicated and relieved to know Devils Tower was a real physical place he was being led to, and it was the place where the Alien’s were going to land their Spaceship!
No. I’m not talking about Alien’s here in my World, but the example is befitting the torture I’ve endured in trying to show a picture of this ‘World’ I know of. It does sound a little Sci-Fi, Supernatural, doesn’t it? And . . . well, maybe it’s part of both of those genres! I’m supposing that’s okay, though what I want to tell you are all these years, I’ve been trying to come up with a description of what that place looks like, and show you what it ‘feels’ like there, or to be more exact, what it doesn’t feel like there, and I realized I’ve known all along! And therein is my epiphany! I’ve always known a description for it, because it’s been inside of me all along.
Well now, doesn’t that feel great?
Now here’s the second part of my mashed potatoes, and something that doesn’t feel so great:
When people assume you are not a Writer simply because you haven’t had anything published . . . yet. Irks me to no end. Having a published novel is my mashed potato! I’m working on it, and building my mound of potatoes daily. It’s a small wonder why those who are just starting out in this crazy Artistic world have little confidence, and doubt themselves continually.
Here’s how that would sound:
You: “Hi! So, what do you do for a living?”
Me: “Hi to you! I’m a Writer!”
You: “Oh wow, that’s so cool. Would I have read anything of yours?”
ME: “Well, no. I haven’t had anything published yet, but I’m working towards it.”
YOU: “Oh. Well . . .”
And then comes the self-doubt that an unpublished Writer endures, simply because they haven’t reached that apex yet.
Why is it that most individuals feel that if a Writer isn’t published, they aren’t truly a Writer? Doesn’t the act of writing every day, or as often as one has time for, qualify them, in fact, justify them, to call themselves a Writer?
I struggle every day to squeeze time in for writing. There are days, like yesterday, when I spend thirteen hours at my laptop, writing, and really digging into my story, my piece of Art, enjoying every second of it, and then there are those days when I eke out whatever time I can to get a sentence or two written. But that’s a sentence or two more than I had the day before! Hey? Guess what? I’m writing! Guess what else? That makes me a Writer! Published or not!
Unfortunately, my worst days are the days when I don’t have an hour to spend devoted to my craft. Those are trying, sad days for me. I can’t stand the thought of not writing. (I know, that’s a double negative, but it seems appropriate here, if inaccurate.) I feel empty inside when I can’t get fingers to keys, or pen to paper, but you want to know something else? Even on those days I’m not actively writing, I’m still playing with words, names, phrases, plots, themes, story boards, grammar and so on in my head. Sometimes I create little mnemonics to help me remember things I want to add to my stories that I may not have time to jot down before I forget.
Then there are those days I sit to write, and I sit, and I sit and stare at a blinking accusing cursor, urging me to write something, anything, and nothing comes out that seems correct or appropriate for my stories. So, rather than allow that cursor to frustrate me because I’m having an ‘off’ day and feel blocked, I go and learn something related to my craft, and then I feel a little better knowing I didn’t waste my day doing nothing but staring at an accusatory cursor. But guess what? I’m still learning, working, and maybe not doing the act of writing itself, but I’ve immersed myself in the realm, in the Art of writing, and for me, that still makes me a Writer.
And, because of all of that, I’m growing stronger in my craft daily. I love the act itself, of creating something out of nothing, and building my mashed potatoes! And then to have people enjoy what I wrote, well, there’s no greater feeling that I’ve found than seeing the emotion I’ve injected into my story reflected in someone’s eyes, on their face, or laughing aloud because of the words I have written. Talk about satisfaction and validation! And I’m growing in confidence every day.
That’s not to say, I still don’t have doubts, because, I do. Many of them. But here’s the thing I’m learning about doubting my own work and ability; that doubt causes me to reexamine something I’ve written and rework it a little bit to make it better than it was before. I’m learning to use the doubts I feel to improve myself as a Writer, and the stories that I’m writing. So, take that ‘doubt’! In your face!
Now, doesn’t that sound like a Writer to you? It does to me. And maybe I’m not published yet, but I’m working on it, because that’s what I do, since . . . I’m just me!