Quarantine Day 33 // On Writing, Reading, and Doing the Work

Yallwest this year has been cancelled and they switched it to an online event called Y’all Stay Home, to support the quarantine. I spent a lot of time Sunday night looking at the panels and the special events and scrolling through the authors who are participating.

I can smell the ocean and the salt. I can see the bright Southern California sunshine and Downtown Los Angeles. I can see the overpasses and exchanges. To this day, it blows my mind that someone designed those and hundreds of people drive across them without them collapsing on the road below them. An architect of roads, I am not.

The author line-up page is this beautiful spread in alphabetical order and next to the author’s name is the cover of their most recent book. I browsed through the page, clicking on the author’s picture, visiting their website and reading about their books.

I miss browsing bookstores.

I miss making the drive to Barnes and Noble—even though we don’t need anymore books (and quite honestly, we’re running out of room on our bookshelves)—and sitting there in the middle of the aisle, with a pile around me or pulling the books off the shelf, reading the copy on the back, and then placing it back on the shelf.

I really wish we’d been able to go to Copperfield’s in Petaluma—like we’ve done the last two years in a row and browse that beautiful bookstore, with it’s dragon hanging from the ceiling, following the wooden floor to whichever section it leads me to next.

Tomorrow . . . Tomorrow I was going to leave work at 2pm. Drive down to Bodega Bay. Sit and stare at that beautiful Pacific Ocean for an hour or two (and possibly read) and then drive back into Petaluma town for Veronica Roth’s event on her new book The Chosen Ones. It wasn’t planned to start until 7pm. It would’ve been a long, late drive back, but a great one.

But I don’t get to do that tomorrow.

The book tour is cancelled and the Petaluma branch of Copperfield’s is closed while we’re quarantined.

I miss bookstores.

Because walking out of a bookstore with brand new hardcovers or paperbacks isn’t the only thing you walk out of a bookstore with.

At least for me. I see hundreds, thousands of dreams that came true.

Maybe for the first time. Maybe for the fifth time. Maybe for the tenth time.

But I know for every single one of those writers . . . it’s not a dream anymore.

It’s true. It’s real life. Their name’s on a spine and it looks beautiful.

It’s the same feeling I’ve gotten lately sitting on the floor of my little bookshelf area. Looking at the books I’ve read above me and the books I haven’t read on the bottom shelf.

And I want so badly for my name to be one a spine of a book I wrote.

So much of writing is unseen. I can take pictures of me writing, of my laptop screen, of the voice memo conversations Ant and I have. I can write blog posts about writing and how difficult and tedious it is and how most of the time I have to fight to get any words written at all anywhere—whether it’s for this blog or for a story. And it’s kinda a joke now that I have all this free time in the evenings due to the quarantine and I’m not writing as much as I thought I would be.

There’s a lot of creatives on social media talking about how not to put the pressure on yourself to create right now. No one’s done this before. It’s okay not to hustle. It’s okay to go through a roller coaster of a creative thing and then to just watch the next episode in the series you’re watching or watch that movie you’ve been meaning to watch for months. I’m also still working, I’m still staying up too late at night. I’m still making adjustments to my evenings so that i can get a good night’s rest and wake up feeling refreshed and ready for the next day.

What the quarantine has taught me so far: I am still the same Tracy I was thirty-four days ago before the quarantine was enacted. I am still wrestling with how much grace to give myself and how stern to be with myself. I’m still fighting with myself over a ridiculous fantasy story that I think is terrible but want to write anyways. I have All the Ideas for things to write here—and some days I write them, but then I never post them.

(I have this weird voice in my head that tells me I can’t just write it and publish it right away. I can. I totally can. It’s my blog, they’re my words. I totally can. A cousin to that same voice tells me I should publish this post after publishing the post I already have a rough draft of or after the post that’s just still an idea. My mind is very strange and, I realize, causes me to stay in the same place a lot and fear moving forward.)

I’m trying to figure out if I can take a Callie Feyen approach to it. I read this in her latest book Twirl last week:

“Instead, I’ll write a greeting and a small task for the beginning of my class, as I used to in other teaching jobs. That’s always what I did because that’s the message I wanted to send: I’m glad you’re here. Get ready to work. That’s what I can promise in my classroom, I think, as I press my foot to the accelerator. Every single day, I promise to welcome my students, and I promise we will work.”

“I’m glad you’re here. Get ready to work.”

I’m all about leaving myself notes. The handwritten notes to myself are always way more loving and happier than the negative self-talk in my head. What if I left this note on my writing desk, so that what I arrived home in the afternoons or went there first thing in the morning I’d see those words? What if that’s the first thing I said to myself in the morning wasn’t another frustrated sigh at another day stuck in quarantine and another thing I didn’t do that my mind and heart have already deemed a failure, but encouragement?

I’m slowly but surely working my way through Neil Gaiman’s essay’s in The View From the Cheap Seats and the piece on Stephen King is magic. Not in the sense that Stephen King is so far out of our reach, but that we can all be Stephen King. He is a writer like I am. He started out poor, which makes the risk to write (to create) that much greater—and that much more necessary.

(Here’s the piece on Goodreads. Magic, I tell you.)

These are my favorite lines:

“They pay me absurd amounts of money for something that I would do for free” (p. 136 in the book).

And,

“King writes every day. If he doesn’t write he’s not happy. If he writes, the world is a good place. So he writes. It’s that simple” (p. 138).

Oof. It’s also kind of a kick in the pants too.

I sat down on my end of the couch Sunday night, with my laptop fully intending to write these words—or at least the Sunday night version of them—and then I got distracted by scrolling through Instagram and a recipe that I found there and then Facebook and an article that looked interesting. And zero words about books and writing were written.

I’m taking a class right now. It’s all online. It’s about mental health and building small tiny habits every day in the natural (eating healthier, exercising, rewiring negative thoughts into positive ones, etc.) and rebuilding my foundation in the supernatural (my faith in God) to help me with my mental health.

One of the videos from last week was about five steps to memorize to help me remember that I am unlearning many bad and negative things that have become my default habits. The last two steps are: 4. accept setbacks because that’s part of the process—a one step forward and two steps back kinda thing, look over my shoulder at every setback, say “Peace!” and then turn around and take the next step, and 5. have patience, it’s not an overnight thing, nothing is.

Sunday night before bed, after sharing with Ant my discouragement towards myself and how easily distracted I had become and how frustrated at myself I was, he encouraged me that it would take time to be the person I was trying to become. And I shared with him the five steps alluded to above and that his little pep talk and the five steps really just lined up.

So next time, Tracy, instead of beating yourself up for not writing, how about you stop the negative thought, stop it by picking up a pen and notebook or open your laptop and write?

Talk about rewiring and retraining our brains from negative to positive.

So, here I am. On a Tuesday afternoon sitting in the middle of my newly-vacuumed living room writing the words I meant to write Sunday night.

4.21.20

I have just taken Yallwest notes. Since the event is now virtual I can attend. I wasn’t planning on attending this year because of a pre-planned #voylerwood vacation in September this year (which prayers and crossed fingers will still happen).

There are some exciting panels—two of them are about world-bulding and one is about mysteries and why we love them, another one is about the publishing world. I have no idea if some of these panels are what Yallwest had originally planned, but regardless—I’m excited that I get to hear these. I’m stoked to soak up authors’ knowledge and stories about these topics.

And in between panels that I’m not attending, I’ll be writing my own words. Story words, journal words, words to share here in this little hobbit hole of mine on the internet.

So, here’s to showing up and doing the work. The work that everyone doesn’t always see, that we may not always talk about.

Here’s to chasing our dreams during quarantine and remembering to give ourselves all the grace and patience to live and rest during this time as well.

What are some of the things you’re missing out on because of the quarantine? How are you getting creative to still be apart of the things  that you love while we’re all social distancing and interacting via Zoom?


Writing Process Notes:
4-21-2020
// 47 mins. 3:45ish-4:32pm. Living room floor. bird noises from outside and Ant working. Words: 1441.
// 23 mins. still on the living room floor. still no music. Added the Callie Feyen and Stephen King bits. Total words: 1797.
// 36 mins. still on the living room floor. some conversation with Ant since his work day has ended. Editing: fixing em-dashes, adding the photo, spelling, links, some rearranging. final words count: 1,848.
// 12 mins to do all the post settings and add the link to my Instagram Profile and Facebook. total words now: 1,868.

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