Emotional Clutter

The last time I worked on my memoir (or this blog) was over 2 months ago. 

There are several reasons why I’ve gotten so off track, but most aren’t valid. Yes, balancing my writing with grad school while I teach homeschool and try to keep up with the housework is tricky, but it didn’t stop me from writing my first 100,000 words of the book. 

It’s the emotional clutter.

The little dick invaded my life in February, wreaking havoc on both my productivity and creativity. Consequently, my commitment to this memoir slipped away from me momentarily. 

Then my wife and I hit a “rough spot” just as I was struggling to wrap up the last part of the first draft (you know, the happily ever after part?) Actually, to be honest, it was more like a nose dive off a Cliff. The kind that makes you both begin to doubt that whole happily ever thing. It happens to the best of couples, of course. But, when it’s you and when it’s with the person you can’t imagine your life without, no matter how mad you are at them, it sucks ass. 

 By now, she’s used to hearing me call out to her from my office that “I’ll be done in a few minutes!” when we both know what I really mean is “I’ll be done several hours from now.” Getting me through grad school is a priority for both of us. So, she understands the commitment I’ve made and what it means as far as our time together. Still, it can be hard on our relationship. 

We were just getting used to the routine again when the Utah legislative session hit, which ended up becoming my priority for the remainder of the month. Per usual, some pretty shit anti-LGBT+ bills were circulating the floor (they really outdid themselves this year with the whole bigotry thing).

I am not built to let things roll off me. It’s something I’m aware of and have tried to make peace with. This year was especially hard, though. The session offered no relief for me or anybody else in the Utah LGBT + community…Or, really, anyone who is a decent person.

It was a mixed bag. On the one hand, I was highly emotional and angry most of the time. Ranting and raving to an audience of one who had no idea what to do to calm me down or comfort me. On the other, a non-profit I’ve worked with in the past offered me a research opportunity. Anyone that knows me well knows research is my life’s blood. It’s what I eat, sleep and dream. So, I jumped at the chance to help out. 

So, that’s what I did for almost an entire month. Everything else in my life was set aside for the “greater good,” including my wife. I became self-absorbed and emotionally unavailable, to say the least. Everything in our home revolved around the day’s politics—something she isn’t nearly as passionate about.

The toll was evident by the time the session was over, judging by the twitch I had developed in my left eye (which happens whenever I’m stressed and not getting enough sleep). I was hanging on by a thread, barely managing to keep my depression in check. For a moment, I thought my mood was going to crash so hard I’d have to withdraw from the program. 

The toll on our marriage was worse, though. The rough patch we had started to go through before it all began got a hell of a lot worse. In fact, there were times I wondered if we’d even get through it. Thus I found myself unable to write a single word. As a result, I abandoned my memoir.

Luckily, things started to turn around at the beginning of this month. We’ve both grown and made some changes. I can even feel the “spark” from the beginning of our relationship coming back. 

However, I’m still struggling to find make the time to write. And, no. I still haven’t figured out the right stopping point of this memoir. 

So, this week I had to make a decision or risk losing the last of my writing mojo. Something I’m not willing to do after all the blood, sweat and tears I put into that first draft.

Instead of struggling against the cock-block that is chapter 30-ish. I took a new approach. I decided I don’t have to write anything new; I just have to work on something that has to do with the book. Anything that will at least keep me connected to it. Right now, that means completely reorganizing my workflow and files. I’ve also gone through and done a rough cut and taken out some small sections that just didn’t “feel right” when I went back and re-read them. I’ve even started story-mapping (I think that’s what it’s called?), using a Hero’s Journey structure, which I had no idea existed until a couple months ago. I’ve also started working on scene and character profiles, which I was apparently supposed to do in a pre-draft (according to a bunch of Pinterest posts and youtube videos on writing).

All that has given me at least some sense of accomplishment as I wade through the last remaining pieces of emotional clutter while I’m waiting for a bit of inspiration to come back.

Photo by Ian Taylor on Unsplash

A Memoir in the Making?

Photo by Lauren Mancke on Unsplash

I’m a little over halfway done with my first draft of the to-be-named memoir (all the good titles seem to be taken. Thanks very much, Muriel Hemingway!). The goal of this draft is to get 100,000 words out, no matter how shittily they come spitting out from the keyboard. I figured this goal will give me enough room to cut some of the boring and unrelated parts out, because, as Stephen King says, your second draft should be your first draft – 10%. I figure the guy knows what he’s talking about, so it’s a tip I think I’ll use. 90,000 words is about 250 pages (based on the standard of about 350 words on a paperback page).

This is a good thing, right? I mean, for nearly 20 years, or more specifically, since I bought my first computer (A Gateway 2000 – which, I believe was still in the days of dial-up internet), my memoir has consisted of one or two pages of notes in a folder on my desktop. So, the fact that it’s even come this far is nothing short of a miracle.

Here’s the thing, though.

This is the part – the part of any project I’ve ever started where I usually begin to lose interest. And, I’ll admit, the past 2 weeks have been quite the struggle to keep writing at all, let alone at the same pace. In fact, I’ve written less than half of the days I planned on and only met my word count twice. To be fair, the world is in a state of full-on bag of dog shit on fire right now and, as a “creative”, my moods tend to coincide with what is going on in the outside world, even if it’s thousands of miles away in a country I’ve never heard of.

There’s more to it than that, though. It’s also the fear and anxiety regarding the future, after I’ve finished the 4th (or 5th draft) and how this book will end up turning out. Will it meet my expectations? Will it end up DOA like so many other good intentions of mine? The prospect of working your ass off for months, turning your unhinged thoughts into something someone may want to read only to have nobody want to read it, is a little intimidating to say the least.

So, as much as I want to believe it won’t happen this time, I worry these are the warning signs that the loss energy may be the clue that the end is nearing for yet another project. Although, I do continue to remind myself that this part, this part needs to be the part where I dig my heels in and fucking finish something I’ve started for once, instead of watching those 60,000 words fade into oblivion with every other great idea of mine that never came to fruition.

I also try to tell myself that this process, this book, is not about seeing my work published, a glossy cover with my name on it, a place on a best selling list, or positive reviews written by people like Oprah. It’s about the catharsis I am going through as I’m pouring my story out onto the screen. And, it is true, to a point. But, I think we all know, it’s also a lie we tell ourselves when we are terrified we are going to fail at something. Nobody with a shred of sanity, in my opinion, would spend so much effort writing something they didn’t want to see some sort of payoff from. I mean, if that’s the case, that’s what journals are for. For me, it’s not even about a big fat paycheck (though, it would be nice), it’s about people reading and relating to me as a person. It’s about people feeling less alone with their own thoughts, especially thoughts regarding their struggles with their own sexuality. And, of course, it’s about being liked – though, that’s the self-diagnosed “vulnerable narcissist” part of me.

The bottom line is that this book is a journey, a gut-wrenching journey that is forcing me to reconcile all the shitty things I’ve done in my life and including the most cringe-worthy of those moments from the past 30 years in my story. A journey where, if I’m being honest, I come across less like a heroine and more like a villain.

However, just like with any other journey, there is always an end-point. Let’s just hope the end-point for this one doesn’t come before the next 30,000 words and (at least) four more drafts.

If it does, however, I’m gonna be pretty pissed because it took me forever to find a decent pen-name to avoid any law-suits erupting from the massive amounts of tea I’m about to spill. Which, by the way, also caused me to change my social media handles and pay for a WordPress site (most likely, far too early) to avoid losing it to some other Jennifer Hollins, real or fake. Do you have any idea how hard it is to find a last name that sounds decent, and goes with one of the most popular names on the planet today, that isn’t taken?

Pretty damn hard.

*Disclaimer: Due to time constraints, this blog is edited at lightning speed, most likely leaving a slew of horrible grammar behind along with several ill-connected thoughts. Therefore, the quality of writing (and proper use of prepositions – whatever the hell those are) is, most likely, not my best. But, I can’t afford an editor and am too lazy to open up Grammarly, so….