Category Archives: Writing, Settling in CA

Get ready, set…Fail!

I love me some comfort: the sensibility of routine, my favorite worn-in sheets, the predictability of the sunset and the tides outside my window.  And especially now, the particular feel of the keyboard, the sticky space bar and silent clicks; the opening up of the document and return to my characters; the way my uber chair feels like coming home every morning (yeah, totally worth every single dime:  after three years, no sags or creaks or scary tilts.)

Seven weeks in the new seaside house.  Comfort level soaring.  I still can’t find the damned box of light bulbs, and the first floor-needing-the-renovation smells funny, and right above my writing desk there’s this scratch-scratch-scratch mid-morning, but most everything is in it’s place, and man, oh man that view, holy cow.

We did it.  We sold, moved, sorted, stored, bought, moved again, settled.

In the most terrifying moments (so far), when I’ve squeezed my eyes shut and prepared to let out a scream, I grab onto David’s hand.  One could argue that he has the most to lose, right?  He’s given up a sure thing.  So, how come he’s the calm one?

I, on the other hand, have arguably finally found my mojo, my path to artistic fulfillment. I’ve finished with the responsibility of bringing to fruition Dave’s great vision, justifiably proud of an organization I built and ran for 25 years.  I’ve done it: screwed up the courage to study my craft, finished a novel, and most significantly, call myself a writer.  What have I got to lose?

Next stop, Commerce.

For three years I’ve told myself that what really mattered were the words, the story, the very real pleasure of working it all out on the page.  Now that I’ve done my first collaboration with a developmental editor, someone to intimately share the intricate puzzle of the novel with, I’ve discovered the particular joys of revision—of unearthing the words, and style and ABC of Jenn and Polly and the story arc.  Jazzed just to type those words.  Amazing.

For three years I’ve told myself that if I could start and then run David’s (highly) successful business based on his vision, then surely I could do the same for myself.  Right?!  The book just needs to be ready.

Well, sure.  Except for the No’s! of Book Commerce.  Getting published is a one-in-a-million shot.  As in, 999,999 No’s and one Yes.  That means hundreds of No’s (and maybe one yes) from literary agents, bunches of No’s from acquiring editors (and maybe a yes or two), only to write and revise Novel #2 and/or Novel #3 and start all over again, and if somewhere in all of that, one of the books comes to the light, you sell a few hundred, maybe a thousand copies (because a lot of readers say No!)

Sound like a set-up to Fail? Yep!

This is wise David’s philosophy:  Give yourself permission to fail.

I’m invested.  I want to start this new business of Gail’s book-commerce and run it successfully.  It’s comfortable, succeeding.  I know that feeling:  working really, really hard and being good at something and being rewarded for my savvy, my talent, my brains. Odds are not good for the new business.  It’s bound to fail, maybe not ultimately, but in the interim.

In this business, if I don’t get a No, then I’ll never get a Yes.

The story may never pass the vetting of the professionals—and I need that to screw up the courage to let the book out. It may never see the light, may never have the transformation seen through your eyes, or his eyes, may never be discussed in a book group or be dissected by a reviewer.  It could fail.

But, wait!  I have the most incredible fall-back plan.  The writing!

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Intensity. Immersion. Whoa.

 

Ever wake up and wonder how you got yourself into this situation?! You know you brought it on yourself, you chose deliberately, your instinct led and you followed, and yet here you are, overwhelmed and blown away and crazed.

10 days to go on the novel edit. 40? 50? pages more. 3 weeks in the new house. 20+ boxes still unpacked. Zero contractors booked for the reno.

There’s part of me that LOVES the hormone rush of too much: too many piled-up deadlines, too many amazing choices, too much to do. But, then there’s the moment of breath, the little break, and I remember the loveliness of just contemplating. Allowing a little space.

How awesome is it that I can have both?!

I’m in the final push of an 8 week editing stint with the incisive and brilliant Joshua Mohr. Since January 4th, I’ve revised 150+ pages of the nascent novel about two sisters. The last section begins today. This is my few hour break.

Revising a novel is like directing your huge, extended family of cats—squiggling, hungry, demanding, petulant, joyful. The calico just turned up his nose at the canned food, the kittens are tearing up your favorite down comforter, the mangy one won’t stop his damned yowling (hisss, stop!) the siamese winks in silent judge-y condemnation.

Live, sleep, eat, breathe, dream Jenn and Polly. (Well, not much sleep, actually.) And then, every now and again, the cats all lift up their faces, the sun shines, and the chorus sings. The story hums. The words coalesce.

And then there’s the move. Smack dab in the middle of what requires intense concentration, 24/7 focus, we close on a complicated escrow, extract ourselves from faculty housing, retrieve belongings packed in May from storage (oh, that’s why one should copiously label the boxes…) and then proceed directly, don’t pass Go, to the Move From Hell. “It’s a 45 minute drive from Palo Alto to Moss Beach. It’s been 3 hours. Where the f*%K are YOU?!” “No, man, the beach is west. west. Not east.” “It’s been 4 hours. What the hell are you doing in Richmond?!”

David thinks they’re selling our belongings out of the back of the truck. I’m noodling on how I’m gonna get Jenn and Polly to do what I want. Trying to get David to stay calm.

Five and half hours later, as the movers arrived with our stuff in the pitch dark, the power went out.

Oh, did I mention the 45 mile an hour wind gusts?

When the lights flickered back on soon after, the entire neighborhood’s bundle of communication cables lies over our driveway and across the moving truck. The already tearful driver completely freaks out. Jenn and Polly gotta wait. PG&E is “aware of the problem.”

So, it’s the end because it all works out. The GPS-inept driver doesn’t get a tip, but he gets a hug, our stuff is safe and sound, and I live in the most amazing place in the entire Bay area. We’ve bonded with the neighbors over the Comcast cable re-wiring week long debacle. David loves having a commute again, and the drive “over the hill” to Palo Alto is one of the most beautiful on this earth. The weather ranges from sunny to foggy to rainy to windy and back again. The ocean and El Nino produced “big waves” and Mavericks surfing dudes converged about a mile from us.

Every day here has the potential for intensity. Eyes wide open.

So, I have both: an intense emotional and intellectual immersion in writing a novel, and a physical and spiritual intensity in my real world.  Yep, I choose this!

California Writing…Surfing to Nirvana, Baby!

It’s official, my car is a Californian!  Am I?

I haven’t wanted to jinx it by actually putting it out into the ether, but another ticked box this week on the road to buying that house near the seals in Moss Beach, wahoo!  We’re scheduled (crossed fingers) to close escrow at the end of January, with a move-in date a few weeks later.  The location—ocean waves, eclectic neighborhood, great walking and near enough to civilization but far enough from distraction—is amazing.  The house’ll need some updating. 

Yup, another renovation for Gail and David!  So, last weekend we toured kitchen and bath showrooms and that old excitement lit me up…just 18 months after we finished the Boca condo reno, here we are facing another.  That one went so unbelievably smoothly I know I’m fooling myself (aren’t I?  This is California coast, they do regulations really, really thoroughly here.  Really, really.)

So, to some extent I’m floating a foot above the earth, waiting it out in the “sabbatical” apartment (so-called to elevate the experience), waiting to put both feet on terra firma.  The cliff dive ain’t over yet.

The real cliff dive—the “I’m a writer” transformation—well, yes, that’s a soul-clenching, joy filled ride that is my tether, my life-line, my wholly certain, shout-it-to-the winds (no jinxing) Hallelujah! 

xxxooo

Gail