Tag Archives: Gratitude

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!


Waiting Mode

You know that feeling when you’re waiting for it to begin? Waiting for the holiday, or waiting for an arrival (or departure) or a new start or a new adventure?  Kind of a shivery excited, maybe no small amount of obsessing—imagining and scripting the scenarios or the place—a little nervous even if you’ve done it before?

We’re in Waiting.  We wait to close escrow on a permanent house in Moss Beach, we wait for flooring and painting estimates to set a move-out-move-in date, we even wait to leave FL to return to Sabbatical Housing in Palo Alto to start packing and planning (always, planning.)

And, I wait for significant feedback on the current Novel Draft from my Stanford mentor, Joshua Mohr; I wait to begin perhaps the final 2-month

 revision on the major artistic work of my last two and a half years.  (That, in particular is a great big wait—filled with trepidations even though we’ve done this before.  But, that’s just normal writerly angst.)Yet, here I am.  Two more days, three more nights in sunny 80’s, ocean and sand.  A few more days with my daughter before we’re separated by a continent again.  Less than 72 hours before David and I go our separate work-day ways. A book to finish reading, another to start (and finish) before next week.

As much as I exhort myself to enjoy the journey, be in the moment (you know), and am certain worrying doesn’t help (um, yeah, “Bridge of Spies” good movie!) there’s always the next, and the next and the next.  Being in perpetual motion, mid-Cliff Dive, uncertain climate ahead, can be a tough place to reside.  Exciting though it may be.  

What always helps, though, is having glimpses into your motion machines, the moments you (yes, you!) make still for examination.  And so.  I’ve joined the (dreaded) Facebook! And, already, I’m rewarded:  today was Chel’s mac and cheese (and really, the new countertop upon which the mac resides…a tantalizing glimpse, will she post more of the move and the place and the man?!) 

Though it’s not conscious (I wouldn’t think, anway…) those particular posts:  the cat (hatlike on her head), the delirious high school friend with her diamond Christmas, the baby face close-ups (whoa, really, really close), but especially the Dad lost, and the Mom lost in 2015 —felt all the more strongly for their absence, their ethereal online presence—these all reflect the heart of your life.  Would I say the cat or the mac or the ocean is the definition of my (or your) self? Nah.  But, the details, and the stories behind each of those moments, rich with memories and associations, are the palpable now.

So, thanks, everyone! Thanks for sharing your moments, I am richer (and quieter) for them.




Gratitude and the Holidays-bah!humbug! be gone…

Christmas! The “holidays!” New (and better!) Year! 

There’s a forced cheeriness about this time of year that has always inspired the opposite for me…my writer angsty side sees dead forest trees shedding needles in protest of being propped in water in living rooms with crap unearthed from the attic boxes winded onto it’s weary arms…yeah, bah, humbug, right?

I trace it to a particular 12-year old Christmas, 1970.  The fifth Collins kid, Kenny, would have been a toddler, Janet still a believer, but the three older kids, we were of an age when we bolted out of early morning beds to discover what our parents had bought for us, hoping and hoping those weeks of dreaming fulfilled, please, oh, please?  Twelve, the cusp year—I was skinny and in awe of girls-who-liked-boys, seeing my messy family anew, hopelessly adrift most days.  My present pile was noticeably smaller than my siblings:  socks, underwear, that fake book that was really rolls of lifesavers.  I felt my mother’s scrutiny and pasted a smile, forced a “thank you!” while my brothers and sisters squealed (for real) over gadgets and toys.  My chest hurt, a physical disappointment, I opened a butter rum roll with precision to avoid looking up. Socks and underwear piled on my lap on the couch.

My mother was flumoxxed, “get up, get up!” she said to me, bed-head hair flattened on one side, wearing her new homemade green velour bathrobe with fake white fur.  Another exhortation to quit being so selfish, right? She dug her hands into the couch cushions where I’d sat and pulled out an envelope.  I looked at her, mouth full of butter rum, Carol, Bobby, Janet, Kenny gathered.  “Open it,” she said.

Inside, five tickets to the Ice Capades at the Boston Garden, a family outing for a family that had never, not once, set foot inside the Garden, the Science Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Franklin Zoo, Barnum and Bailey’s, the Symphony nor the Ballet, not even the Showcase Cinemas (nor apple picking or hay rides or the  Chinese restaurant or Friendly’s); a family with a backyard pool and a hundred neighborhood kids for one-on-one basketball or roller skating or riding bikes.

The outing itself was magical, coming home with Carol, Bobby and me squeezed into the backseat of the Valiant, my mom and Dad pointing out an obscure Uncle’s neighborhood wiped out by the building of Rt. 93 in Somerville, looking into the passing livingrooms of the city dwellers from the elevated highway, imagining their lives and loves.  Life expanded beyond my suburban neighborhood.

No family Christmas ever lived up to that one.  I grew surly in adolescence, our parents divorced, one by one we moved away, the family reconfigured with boyfriends and girlfriends, little brothers became adults.  

The period of making Christmases and holidays for our kids with an extraordinarly generous husband capable of finding meaning in the “pile,” the bigger the better, squashed the dread of disappointment, but when even they, in young adulthood said “enough,” the niggling returned, full-blown.  What does it mean, this year-end?  Especially this year, the year in which I’ve left all of the family, friend and office traditions—the CMO yankee swap and Christmas book group lunch, the Collins Xmas Eve dinner and Pauline Xmas morning breakfast gift opening?

I have no firm answers (sorry…)  I’m searching, still.  What I can say is this:  everywhere I look these days, I see opportunity.  In Palo Alto, Stanford’s traditions include a sing-along Messiah in the gorgeous and astonishing Memorial Church, so yes, absolutely, we went…no, my Collins out-of-tune voice silent, but my heart soared with that sound.  The two week University shutdown means we can be back in our Florida home and the sun (El Nino has hit the west coast), grateful beyond belief. Dad and Carol will drive down from NC to meetup with us and our kids, the first time we’ve been together for Christmas since they sold that suburban home years, maybe decades ago.

That old Bandera Drive house where my mother unearthed the best Chrismas present I ever got:  the gift of a widening world.

Thanks, Mom.

That old Bandera Drive house where my mother unearthed the best Christmas present I ever got:  the gift of a widening world.
Thanks, Mom.