Here’s something that is hazy in my future plan that needs to be much, much clearer: the status of the book I haven’t written.
Here’s something that was crystal clear when I was talking about that stalled dream when talking with Caytha Jentis and Artist Thornton about disrupting myths about aging (for example: at a certain age you shouldn’t bother trying to write a book): the way they vigorously shook their heads in disagreement that it is too late. (See for yourself at the 0:22 mark in this video.)
Besides the incredible bond the three of us developed over a few emails/Facebook messages/test videos and the actual video here, I gained several takeaways that apply both to my book-writing goal and to this stage of my life in general.
Don’t Underestimate the Power of Curiosity
Curiosity is one of the qualities Caytha mentioned during our talk. She’s right. I’m sure that’s one of the factors that led her to produce movies and create The Other F Word (check it out on The Girlfriend!).
One of the mental barriers I have had (ridiculous as it is) to writing this book is this: I envision it as an Unbroken-type book: meticulously researched yet beautifully told. I doubt my research skills (but feel I could take a crack at the beautiful telling part….). My internal dialogue has been for years “but you can’t do it like Laura Hillenbrand.”
A bit of reading led me to find out that (voila!) Laura Hillenbrand has succeeded wildly as a writer by being curious, even though her health limitations made it difficult to do field study of her topics. A Flavorwire article about her approach, How ‘Unbroken’s’ Laura Hillenbrand Writes Her Epic Nonfiction, says this:
What you need is endless curiosity…
Rejection is Inevitable, But How Crazy is it When We Reject Ourselves?
Caytha has experienced her share of rejection in the challenging world of production. Artist is making a go of it in a competitive New York restaurant scene with his place, SpaHa Soul. Neither industry is exactly gentle on dreamers.
“If you don’t try, you already have rejection,” said Caytha (i.e., what do you have to lose from trying?). That led me to say “you’re essentially rejecting yourself.” I’ve done my share of that and I don’t recommend it, people.
Cry, then move on
One of my favorite parts of our conversation was the segment about overcoming obstacles. When I asked Caytha about that, I expected her to say something along the lines of “I overcame them because I’m a badass!” yet her first response was “I cry.”
I can’t say I cry over rejection but I do something equally destructive and insidious: tell myself “of course you didn’t [insert goal here] because clearly the other people who do that are better. Really, why did you even try?”
However, beyond the crying is the boxing match. You heard me right: the boxing match.
Embrace rejection and look at it as a boxing match, Caytha said: go the full round. Not every idea is to be executed — that’s valid. I had a business plan and had to be crafty and find ways to make things happen. Once I went to midlife bloggers, figured out there was an audience, learned how to engage them and tapped into the power of working together as entrepreneurs, it’s like we become part of a larger thing — squaring not doubling – it’s how we become strong and viable.
This is my personal soapbox and I will espouse this viewpoint/approach, always (even though I execute it imperfectly). During our discussion on Facebook live, we talked about how we tend to be more generous by this stage in our lives; we have figured out that is where the true power lies.
I will admit this is a struggle for me, because my competitive nature is always right under the surface, sometimes undetectable, and the insecurities that plague many of us lead me to worry about losing out on many opportunities, employment-wise and life-wise, I know that ultimately lifting others up always lifts us up too.
(The Facebook Live I share above is a perfect example of that. I sought out many other people in the process of looking for someone to participate in a FB live about midlife and busting myths. I specifically wanted to make sure LGBT issues were addressed. While I certainly accept the fact that some people just didn’t get back to me at all — we are all bombarded with “opportunities” and can’t do everything, I am giddy with happiness that Caytha and Artist said yes, even though it was a little crazy figure out how to get three people on a FB live at once (thank you, BeLive.tv, for making it happen). These are the people I was meant to do this with, and their generosity of spirit showed throughout the whole thing.)
Back to Laura Hillenbrand
I’m glad I found the article I referenced above, which links to a longer New York Times Magazine piece. Reading about Laura Hillenbrand helps me realize that there is no “one perfect way” to write a book. When her illness forced her to stay home almost exclusively, she had items brought to her so she could understand them (such as World War II bombing artifacts).
I love the idea in the Flavorwire article that Hillenbrand “excels in a particular sort of intimacy, and that intimacy drags you into the story.” It’s certainly one of the many qualities that led me to love Seabiscuit and (primarily) Unbroken — which tied in my love of the running community and Louis Zamperini’s heroic story as well as the World War II theme.
She wrote her book. Her way. With intensive effort and creative workarounds. Maybe this is possible for me also.
Keep Dreams Alive
Throughout my post and Facebook Live about Disrupting Myths, I’ve used the “keep dreams alive” idea consistently but there’s something about it that never sat perfectly with me. For me, it’s not that the dreams need to be kept alive (because they just won’t die….) but that I need to give my dream (the book) structure and priority.
Although I went to great pains in my last blog post on this topic to convince myself that I don’t have to be Laura Hillenbrand to do this (that, in fact, the more important thing is to be *me* with my passion about Camp Gordon Johnston), I was struck by this comment by Jonathan Karp, who bought the rights to Seabiscuit for $100,000 when he was with Random House (extreme diversion to a barely related side note here — I spent a few years as a freelance proofreader for Ballantine Books, which was the Random House paperback imprint at the time).
Anyway, Karp said this: “I keep waiting for somebody to do what Laura did.”
Although doing “what Laura did” needs to be done with my individual touch, maybe once the haze clears, it’ll be me.
I linked this post to the Kat Bouska site for the prompt “write a blog post based on the word ‘hazy.'”
The Facebook Live that led to the video I embedded here was done in conjunction with Women Online and AARP. All opinions are my own.