Date Archives February 2016

The Death of My Writing Career

Skull
Image created by John Hain, courtesy of Pixabay.

Once, years ago when I was married, we found mouse poop in the garage. We put out some traps and Voila! one day, one of the traps did its thing.

Sort of.

While it did, indeed, trap the mouse, it did not kill it. So the top half of the mouse was writhing around while the bottom half was disgustingly smushed. The mouse squealed loudly. In fact, its loud agony is what drew us to the garage in the first place that day.

“We have to put it out of its misery!” I declared. “When I was a kid, my grandmother once finished off a mouse with a can of hairspray. Let me go see what aerosols we have!” I ran off to find the most noxious things in the house.  I figured the more potent the better, that way this poor mouse could get on to the business of attending the Afterlife Orientation seminar that he was most certainly scheduled to attend later in the day.

I delivered my armload of poison to the garage and started for the door. “Wait! Why do I have to do this?” my ex-husband asked. I explained that this was a man’s job if ever there was one. (Hat tip to my grandma for handling what needed handled back in the day.)

I went inside and waited for news that the grisly task had been completed.

That news did not arrive.

Instead, the husband walked in looking puzzled and traumatized. He reported that the aerosols didn’t work. The mouse was still kickin’. And furthermore, the whole thing had made him feel terrible.

I was deflated. Now, thanks to us, the mouse was not only half mutilated, but it had a head full of poison.

Still, the only humane thing to do would be to finish the job that we had already started.

“Why don’t you drown it in a bucket?” I suggested. I was starting to feel like the pathetic mastermind behind a duo of failed medieval torturers. I could just imagine the mouse looking up at us and declaring, “I’m not dead yet,” in a charming English accent. Monty Python meets the modern suburbanites.

I retrieved the green bucket I used to mop. I handed it to my ex-husband and he trudged out to the garage. I felt horrible that he had to do this ugly task … and terribly guilty that I was the one turning him into a murderer.

He came back a few minutes later and reported that it was done. Hallelujah.

However, he also reported that the mouse didn’t go quietly. Of course it didn’t. The trap and the mouse apparently floated. And then the mouse started swimming, dragging the trap behind it.

I half expected him to tell me that the mouse then unzipped his mousey costume and a tiny John Cleese wriggled his way out.

But no. He then had to go hunting for something to hold the trap down under the water. A stick, a hammer … I don’t know what. My brain was too over-run with guilt to take in any more details.

The point was, the mouse was finally dead. Not mostly dead. But dead dead.

Whew.

What were we talking about here?

 

So why do I bring up this story?

Because every few years I try to kill my writing aspirations. Not the stuff that pays the bills — the client work, the ghost writing, blah, blah, blah — but the other stuff.

However, no matter what I do, that part of my brain puts up a fight on the order of John Mousey Cleese and refuses to die.

I’ve had times in my life where I’ve written a lot. Where I can’t stop writing, even when I’m not physically at a keyboard. The words are just coming — and not in a beautiful dream-like way, but in an incredibly irritating, pecking-the-living-fuck-out-of-my-brain way. They wake me up in the middle of the night and won’t let me go back to sleep.

It can be really annoying.

And also great.

But I’ve never turned that part of my writing life into anything that ever made money. I’ve made a few bucks here and there, but nothing that would ever add any serious heft to my finances. So sometimes I convince myself that because I haven’t made real money yet, I shouldn’t write. Because I’ve never gathered up all of this wordly mess in my brain and turned it into a book, it’s not something I should spend my time on.

You know … instead of writing here on my blog, I could be prospecting for new clients. I could be getting ahead with existing clients. I could be formulating pitches for publications that might pay me something — the marriage of my creative and professional work. Win-win, right? Or maybe not. (I just read a great piece by Neil Kramer on this. He really nailed how I feel about this.)

In any case, I’ve got a little writing mouse inside of me that will not stop fighting. It wants to live. It doesn’t care if it’s half mangled and brain damaged from all of the abuse I’ve tried to put it through. It will swim all night if it means that it gets to take another breath of air. If I’m going to kill it, I’m going to have to resort to some gruesome means that will hurt my heart and damage my soul.

So this time, I will let it live. I will take that little mouse out of the bucket. I will free it from the trap. I ‘m going stick it outside in the grass and see what it does. Who I am to judge what quality of life it’s going to have? Who am I to assume that a hawk  or a cat is going to grab it for dinner? After what this mouse has been through, it’s likely to spit in that predator’s eye.

So if you’ve read this far, let me ask you … what have you been trying to suffocate in your life? What would happen if you let it breathe?

P.S. to Tom: Sorry about the mouse. I still feel about bad about it. 

__________________

Click here to get future posts by delivered by email.

Follow me on Facebook or Twitter.

Email me at trishsammerjohnston@gmail.com. I’d love to hear from you!

Hope Springs Eternal — And Also, Out of My Neighbors’ Yard

Creek flowing in the snow

Ever notice how water generally has little regard for the plans of people?

The creek that carves a gash across our property clearly has no concern that it doesn’t belong in the middle of a suburban yard. The chasm it creates is deep and unruly, making any hope of achieving a regular-looking lawn impossible.

But the creek just goes about its business, shooting a casual “eff you” to the deliberate landscaping of the neighboring homes as it winds its way into the woods.

I so am thankful for the long-ago homeowner who decided to just let the creek BE. Rather than try to fight it, divert it, or hide it, whomever built this house decided to let the creek rule the yard.

And so it does. Our house is the only one in our neighborhood with a small forest for a front yard. It’s not a yard that everyone would love, but I couldn’t love it more.

 

A mystery 

I’ve been watching this creek since we moved in, and I’ve been puzzled by something: While the plants surrounding the creek have changed with the seasons and the weather, the creek does not. It never dries up or diminishes after a dry spell. It doesn’t freeze, even in the ultra-cold.

Since it’s not a particularly wide or deep body of water, it seemed strange that it was completely impervious to any external conditions.

There was another weird thing, too. The creek entered our yard from the neighbors’ property. But I could never quite figure out the path it took through their yard. I could only ever spot a few feet of it and then I lost it.

However, in December the mysteries of the creek were revealed to me. The neighbors invited us over for a holiday potluck lunch. While we were there, I mentioned to them that I couldn’t figure out where the creek cut through their property.

Turns out, there was a very good reason for that. They told me that the creek actually originates UNDER their house. It bubbles up from an underground spring and enters the outside world in their backyard.

I laughed at myself that I hadn’t even considered a spring.

In any case, this answer delighted the heck out of me.

Why?

Because it reminded me of so many great things.

 

Finding room for magic

I always tell people I’m living a charmed life. I think one reason I believe that is because I always try to leave room for the unexpected. I like to leave open the possibility that something delicious and unanticipated might show up right around the corner and enrich my life in ways I never dreamed of.

Life is way more interesting with some magic in it.

But for the last few months, I’ve been feeling keyed up and scattered.

My life has gone through some major shifts — personally and professionally. I’m so happy with Joe and our evolving family and our quirky and cozy house … but I’ve also been trying to figure out how to accommodate BIG IMPORTANT SERIOUS REAL WORLD STUFF like work and money, while also satisfying my inner appetite creativity, mystery, and weirdness.

It can be hard remember to leave the door open for that kind of stuff when there’s laundry to do and lunches to pack and schedules to figure out and work that requires intense mental focus.

Getting stuck in a very linear mindset based on finite resources — time, money, attention — means that I’m not always remembering to look around for the magic of life. Worse, when I start thinking that way, I end up closing the door on possibilities. Why? Because I just can’t fathom where they’ll come from. I forget to remember that sometimes stuff just shows up.

 

Lessons from little creek

So getting back to my creek …

Finding out that — wow — it’s created from an endless source of ever-flowing water that just appears out of nowhere? That was a mind blower. And it also helped me remember these very cool and helpful concepts:

  • The “source” of something isn’t always visible, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t powerful or constant.
  • Sometimes the thing that fuels us is rooted so deep down that nothing could stop it. Not a dry spell. Not a deep freeze. Not even plunking a house on it.
  • I don’t have to know where everything comes from in order to see it, touch it, or believe it. Sometimes stuff just shows up.
  • The simplest explanations are often easy to overlook.
  • There is tremendous beauty in letting nature follow its course. That goes for human nature too. Maybe we’re not all meant to live a life that looks like the perfect lawn. Maybe instead of trying to mold ourselves into the ideal image of what we think we’re “supposed” to show the world, perhaps we can make more interesting choices. Maybe, by letting our inner energy flow into the world, maybe we can carve paths that we didn’t imagine.

 

So let me ask you … what are you stuffing down? What are you trying divert? What would happen if you made a different choice?

 

_____

Don’t forget to sign up to have my posts emailed to you.