Saturday, August 29, 2015

Fake It Till You Make It

I'm sitting in a coffee shop with my pen and paper, pastry and coffee, trying to look writerly. I'm in Iowa City, so I blend right in with all the other aspiring writers and students. I'm hoping this change of scenery and role-play will jump start my new/old career as a writer. Look the part, play the part, be the part.

Things I've learned so far: My view of the parking lot is not as inspiring as you might think. Although watching this dumbass try to shoe-horn a Suburban into a space for a compact car is pretty entertaining.
And off-task.

The incredible class I took at the UI Summer Writer's Workshop left me inspired and enthusiastic and thinking anything was possible. But since then other chores have taken over and my writing momentum has dwindled. I went from writing full scenes, to jotting notes and ideas, to... looking for my notebook. It's time to refocus on my new “job.” My dream.

Things I've learned so far: I should never assume I have a notebook in my “novel supply bag.” Luckily I did have a clipboard and paper so I don't have to write on 3x3 sticky-notes. But the clipboard makes me feel more like a health inspector than a writer. I must not look very official, though, because the cashier didn't try to bribe me with free coffee.
Still off-task.

The kids have gone back to school and it has finally hit me that I am well and truly unemployed, not just “between career opportunities” as I have taken to saying. There's still the part-part-part time secretary thing, and the full-time Mom/Wife thing (although they need me a little less), and the volunteer stuff. There's still not enough hours in the day (I should be secretary-ing right now).

Things I've learned so far: With free wi-fi and mobile data Facebook can be a distraction anywhere! Anytime!
Still off-task.

It seemed like such a good idea last spring when I decided to follow my dream to become a writer. People would ask me “what are you going to do if you're not teaching?” I answered confidently “I'm going to write!” And they'd give me that patient, bemused look you give a child who says “I'm going to be a space-cowboy-fireman when I grow up!” Then they'd politely change the subject.

Things I've learned so far: Even when the coffee shop is three-quarters empty, the waitstaff will give you dirty looks after a while. I wonder how many plain-black-coffee, serve-yourself refills you are really supposed to take?
Still off-task.

Now that school is back in session people are a little less... willing to humor me. Now when they ask “what are you doing if you're not teaching?” I answer a little less confidently “Ummm, writing?” And they wait a beat, then follow up with “But really. What are you going to do?” “I'm looking into things,” I mumble. My confidence was all a facade. That veneer is thinning, and my fears are starting to poke through.

Things I've learned so far: I CAN HAVE TOO MUCH CAFFEINE!

I like money. I like getting paid. I like spending money. I like having concrete answers to use on forms that ask you to list things like “Occupation,” and “Work Phone.” And “Yearly Income.”

Things I've learned so far: Autocorrect trumps spell check, and it drives me nuts! Although it did just change “pretending” to “ostensibly,” which sounds fancy. And not as desperate as “pretending.” Sort of brave, even.
Still off-task.

I've always wanted to write. I've always wanted to be a writer. In college most of my friends were science majors, planning for serious careers with serious titles, and suits and badges and office hours. I just wanted to write about what they were going to do and how they would do it.

Before the TV show “Will and Grace” made it trendy to have a gay friend, it was trendy to have a friend who was an English major (or philosophy major) so that you could tell your other friends “This is my English major friend, who will grow up to be unemployed and homeless. Then I will introduce them as my unemployed and homeless friend, and they will have my back when I volunteer to do community service work at the local soup kitchen. This is just more evidence that I am a responsible and forward thinking individual – besides the fact that I have chosen a career path that ensures an employable future.”

And I would turn to all my other English and journalism friends and I would say “These are my science major friends. They actually study. A lot. I can tell you about what they do and how they do it, but I can't do it myself. Someday they're going to have important, serious jobs. And I'll write about those, too.

But what I really want to do is write the stories and books that they will read when they get home from work. When they are tired and just want to escape from this serious world for a little while they'll turn to my work. I'll tell them about my hopes and dreams, and fears and crazy ideas. And maybe they'll laugh, or cry, or relax, or see things from a new perspective.
Just for a moment they will be off-task, and they'll enjoy it.

Things I've learned so far: I can't give up just yet. I'll fake it till I make it.
But with less coffee.


  1. I think we want to be the same person. Got Skype? Maybe we hang out over coffee that way--at least no dirty looks from the staff..

  2. FYI - your math (& English) major friend really wants to be a writer, too. Fake it till you make it for all of us. :)

  3. Gianetta, :) Skype sounds vaguely like more technology.... But I need to get it! I have a million questions for you!

  4. Stephanie - As a math major, does that mean you can calculate the odds of success? We got this, sistah!