Jami Attenberg’s 1000 Words of Summer started a few days ago, coincidentally at the same time #blogjune began. Because I’ve never met a challenge that I haven’t abandoned halfway through, I’m challenging myself to reach that lofty goal this month. For some reason, I want it more this year. I’ve felt creatively fecund lately, and there are stories and art living inside me that simply must get out.
I’m starting to think that it isn’t the fear of success that keeps me from getting serious about writing or a creative career, it’s fear of criticism. Furthermore, I don’t handle criticism or rejection well at all; I crumple like paper in a clenched fist at the slightest brush of disapproval. But that urge to create, to purge myself of whatever words or images live inside me never goes away. I put in my earbuds, find a focus playlist that is motivating without being too aggressive, and pick up a pen, a paintbrush, or stylus and write until I feel creatively spent. It’s a rush.
I’m currently reading Moss House, a work of historical fiction that is based on the real life diaries of Anne “Gentleman Jack” Lister (verdict: I’m enjoying it). Miss Lister says she keeps a diary because she was sure that her lesbianism would result in others erasing her from history. “(I)f I have not recorded what happened, did it happen at all?” It made me wonder why I keep a journal. I’ve done so sporadically over the years, and while I might not write daily, I seem to have picked up the habit in earnest after repeated incidents of various kinds of trauma over the years. I write to help me process my emotions, to set free the swelling emotions that threaten to pull me under. Furthermore, I write to have a record of emotional healing and progress, and to get better as a writer.
I write to be more self-aware, and to learn to hear and trust my own voice. My journal is where I go to yell; where no one can hear me or judge me, or think less of me because I dare to express an emotion that runs counter to theirs. But mostly I write to stay connected to myself, to wrap myself in my words as if they were my mother’s loving arms. I write to reassure myself that I am okay, that I remain a magical and wondrous creature, despite what society would have me think.
Two weeks ago, I had an idea for a scene in the young adult/new adult novel I’ve been threatening to write, and the scene felt so powerful that I had to step away from it until tonight. I’m going to share it with you, knowing that it is extremely raw and unpolished, but like the woman says,
Today you will write 1000 words. You are going to write freely and passionately and with beautiful abandon. You will not worry if they are the wrong words. You will not second guess yourself. You will not talk yourself out of this. It is day one and you have a reason for being here: you have something you want to say. No one can stop you from saying it but yourself. And you are going to nail this. Hard. Jami Attenberg, Day 1, 1000 Words of Summer
So here goes.
In all of my years of going to concerts, I always wondered what it would be like to be backstage at one. Backstage conjured up mystical images in my mind: rangy, sweaty, half-naked musicians of every gender draped languorously over couches or their nearest sexual conquests. I’d find bowls of fresh fruit and towers of bottled water stacked higher than my head over on the craft services table. The adrenaline rush of performance coupled with endorphins would make me feel heady and a little punch drunk.
The summer that the radio station put on a weekend long music festival, I learned that it was much cooler than I could have ever imagined. I was in the crowd, but I stood at the back with the rest of the kids from the radio station. It was closest to the bar and our VIP area, but it put us close enough to the action to experience it without needing to be in a crush of bodies. To be in it, but not of it, which is how I usually felt at these events.
Yes, I obviously worked at the station, and in a few weeks, I’d be the general manager, the impossibility of which makes my mind collapse in on itself in disbelief.
The heat of the day was beginning to dissipate, but our bodies carried the memory of being slowly roasted over a low fire all day long, being stoked by music, drugs, and the incomparable allure of being young. We felt like gods. Or were supposed to feel like gods. They looked like Zeus, while I felt like Demeter. I hovered near the edges, dancing with myself and occasionally with other members of the staff, each of us a clumsy, milk-drunk puppy with its littermates. But there was a carnal undercurrent that danced through the air, and that night, I set out to fuck (or be fucked by) somebody.
There’s some other stuff that’s supposed to happen here, but I lost the plot once my arms started to hurt. What do you think? Should I continue? Is it any good, or am I just fooling myself? I suppose ultimately it doesn’t really matter what anyone else thinks, what matters most is that I’m enjoying the process. But we’ve established that I’ve got the Lassie gene, and I thrive on praise and head-pats. I am who I am.