the fear of success (subtitle: wtf?)

I spent a couple hours deep cleaning my home on Tuesday. It started with my desk, which needed dusting and de-cluttering so I could sit down and open my computer and build a simple, easy-to-find author bio website.

But then I noticed dust on my dresser and the bookshelf. Post-holiday dust. And dog hair under the desk. I got out the broom. Clean slate, I told myself. New year, clean room, clean mind.

Also, it turns out, there were tiny spots on the bathroom mirror from wiping the steam off. And the bathroom floor needed a sweep. Just this, I thought, but I definitely won’t clean the kitchen.

But when I went in the kitchen to get a rag, I saw ghosts of spills on the front of the dishwasher. Fingerprints on the refrigerator. The top of the plastic container that holds the dog’s food was kind of dingy.

Two hours later even Roscoe’s water bowl was gleaming but I was no closer to making the website. In fact, I think the website was the problem (or perhaps the solution, if you ask the dog). Making the website meant acknowledging that I was really doing this being-a-writer thing, and in a very public way.

For years people have suggested I submit to the Modern Love column in the New York Times. This suggestion made sense: if you write about love and love stories it’s pretty much the best place to get published. I mean, people get book deals after their stories run in Modern Love. But I resisted for lots of reasons: they don’t use pseudonyms (not even versions of your own name, like I use), it’s a high-profile place to broadcast one’s personal affairs, and the word count seemed like such an awkward length. And it’s super competitive—they get something like ten thousand submissions a year.

Well, the word count is awkward, but they’re publishing my essay this Sunday. And I am terrified.

I’m also thrilled. I got the email from the editor Dan Jones while making Christmas dinner with my mom’s family and I just started screaming right there in the kitchen, “Mom! New York Times! New York Times!” But once the reality of publishing in the column set in, I started feeling weird. And then I started cleaning.

(And Googling myself several times a day to see if my new website would pop up in time for publication. This is something I don’t recommend.)

FullSizeRender

This is from the Douglas Coupland exhibit at the Vancouver Art Gallery. Taken July 29, the night I wrote about in the column. There’s some irony in here somewhere.

The other day I was talking to some friends about those times in life when you get separated from yourself and then, a bit later, you find yourself again and things suddenly come into focus. When I started this blog I didn’t have many reliable bearings. I wanted to write a book but had no idea how to go about it. I’d just gotten Canadian Permanent Residency and promptly moved out of the house I shared with my ex and into a new apartment. I was investing in my life in Vancouver—only without the person I came with.
I eventually figured out that I needed to do two things to be happy: write regularly and find some friends who liked rock climbing or going to breweries. And my life started to come into focus. Continue reading

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Something about how this started

I have this theory that most love stories actually do a terrible job of preparing us for the business of being in a romantic relationship. But despite this, we still love love stories. We tell them all the time. We hold them up to the light next to our own relationships.

I love love stories. Personal experiences, family histories, fairy tales, cheesy romantic comedies–you tell it, I’ll listen. Cue up a Julia Roberts movie and I’m the one sitting beside you on the trans-Atlantic flight, glancing surreptitiously at your iPad and pretending my red, puffy eyes are the result of cabin pressure and a pretzel allergy.

I once worked at a writing center with a Joan Didion quote on the wall that read, “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.” I’d been writing essays about rock climbing, or caffeine, or medieval martyrs, but somehow each piece snuck back around to this one fact: I fell in love.

Every day I looked at that quote and I grew increasingly worried about what it might mean for me. Love scares the crap out of me, but somehow I’d spent my life wanting it. If I didn’t tackle it head-on, I might never stop writing about it. I was used to being good at things, but love? Love was too smart for me. It was the roadrunner and every time I tried to catch it, I threw myself off the cliff with the anvil. I wanted to know why love wasn’t easier. And why something that was a fundamental biological drive could feel so utterly unintuitive.

Well, I for one blame the messenger. Love stories, you’re in my sights.

One day, this will be a book. In the mean time, it’s a hot mess of Word documents, and, now, a blog!