On the night of November 1, I couldn’t sleep. So I grabbed
my cell phone from my nightstand, thinking I’d play a mindless game until I
eventually crashed. Before I could open the game app, though, an email
notification popped up. I had a new message from Patreon. Normally, I’m excited
to acquire a new patron, but on that night my mouth turned dry and my heartbeat
became irregular. My large intestine seized and the acid in my stomach sloshed in
“New $1 Patron! Meet [Rodney]” the subject line read.
Yup. My ex-husband had signed up to read my memoir. Only he used his real name and his real email address to do it, not the pseudonym I’ve given him. I know he still stalks me online and don’t usually give it a second thought, but that night I started to fill with rage. It began in my toes and had worked itself up to about my collarbone before I recognized it for the resurfacing trauma it was.
Writing the memoir can also trigger such a response, but I’m aware of what I’m doing to myself and can mentally prepare to deal with the feelings before they morph into physical malady. Being triggered unexpectedly by someone else—the asshole ex no less—well, that required time to gather my wits.
In the middle of defending myself to myself in my head (don’t
pretend you don’t do it too), I stopped abruptly, letting the amateur therapist
in my brain take over.
“It’s my story to tell. If he doesn’t like—” Me-Me was
“Didn’t you tell yourself he would probably pull a stunt
like this when you started the project?” Therapist-Me interjected.
“Huh? Oh. Yes.”
“And what was your conclusion at that time?” Therapist-Me
“Fuck him. Who cares?” Me-Me replied, somewhat unsure.
“Right. And what’s different now?”
“Nothing,” I said. “His existence literally doesn’t matter to
Therapist-Me paused, waiting to see if Me-Me had anything to
add. I did. “OMG! This is absolutely hilarious! Is he trying to intimidate me
by paying me $1? I have to tell Melanie. I have to blog about this. But first I
have to block him from commenting on Patreon. He doesn’t get to make MY story
about him. Do you remember when he hijacked the comment threads on my old blog?
My thoughts trailed off as I opened the Patreon app to block
my ex-husband’s account. The app notified me that the requested action couldn’t
be completed because the account had been deleted.
I don’t honestly know whether “Rodney” meant to pop in for a
minute to intimidate me and thought giving me a dollar was the best way to do
it, or if he just couldn’t help himself. Maybe his curiosity got the better of
him and he just had to have a look. Maybe he didn’t realize the name and email
he used to create his patron account would be sent to me. (In which case, what
a dipshit! Next time use an alias and a burner email, you twit.)
I don’t know if Rodney had enough time to read all the published
chapters of Who You Gonna Believe before he bailed, but there’s plenty of time
for YOU to catch up before a new chapter drops on November 30. Your patronage gets
you all the juicy details AND it helps me keep the lights on.
Think about it!
Become a Patron!
I can’t focus on the memoir today. Yeah, I made it to 40,000 words this morning, but only because I was able to copy and paste some years-old writing. While I was in Scrivener poking around, I looked at a few previously written scenes and immediately became depressed.
They are horrible.
I know this is what first drafts are like—particularly for someone like me who’s never written a whole freaking book before. But, ugh. It’s depressing to feel like you’ve got 40,000 words and a month worth of your life invested in something that is completely unsalvageable.
Dan tries to console me when I get like this, which is about three times a week. “Neil Gaiman, or someone, I don’t remember who, posted a few lines of their first draft on Twitter once to show how hard he had to work to get it right.”
“It was one of the worst things I’d ever read. Everyone’s first draft sucks, Swiss. That’s why first drafts are never published.”
“Yeah, I know. I guess.”
It doesn’t help that I’m reading a couple of really great books (An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green and Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover) right now, and both are kind of brilliant. As far as Green’s novel goes, you couldn’t compare two more different books—his YA novel and my memoir—but that doesn’t stop me from doing it anyway. However, Westover’s memoir fits squarely in my book’s genre and the writing is better and her life is about 10,000 times more interesting than my own, despite my once marrying a compulsive liar and then later being diagnosed with a brain tumor.
Anyway, it is just as they say, comparison is the thief of joy.
When I finish writing for the day, I usually reward myself by researching the publishing process (I know surprisingly little about traditional publishing) and/or watching bookish YouTube videos. Today, I went to YouTube and stumbled on YA writer Nadine Brandes. I watched the video where she opened a UPS package from her publisher containing the hardcover of her book Fawkes and I was like, THAT. IS. SO. EXCITING. And after that I watched the Fawkes release day video. When I got to the part where she picked her book up off the shelf at Barnes & Noble? I might’ve cried my pants (peed my eyes?) a little bit.
The super-reserved, daughter-of-a-stoic part of me thinks that if I talk about how badly I want to publish this memoir I’ll jinx the whole process. But the rest of me is ready to blab about how I’ve already started bookmarking the web pages of potential literary agents.
I’m feeling pretty good about being this close to 40,000 words after only a month. I mean just look at the lovely shade of green that progress bar is turning! When I originally settled on the goal to write 50,000 words I thought it seemed impossible. And truthfully, I think I need closer to 60,000 words for a real book. (Somehow 50,000 seemed much less daunting. *shrug*) But now I think the first goal is a foregone conclusion and the second goal is well within my reach.
A couple nights ago I was talking to Dan about the themes I was seeing emerge from the scenes I was writing, and he was like, “Wow. That’s actually pretty cool.” So then I mentioned how I was even tossing around some working titles.
“What do you think about [Blankity Blankity]?” I asked.
“That’s not bad. Or maybe just [Blank].”
“Oh. My. GAWD,” I said. “That is fucking brilliant.”
“My fee is 15%.”
So now I have a working title, which is also super fun. (Sorry, not ready to disclose it just yet. It’s too early and the whole story arc it’s based on could still easily fall apart and then we’d all be disappointed.)
Dan, my littlest Lit Major, has also promised to help me organize my scenes into something readable once the draft is complete. The plan is for me to finish the first draft, drink a margarita, and then print it out and hand it over to Dan for the cutting and pasting and reordering of scenes. I won’t look at it myself for a minimum of seven days once it’s on paper for the first time.
If you’d like to sponsor that margarita or the replacement ink cartridge I’ll have to buy after, you can donate to paypal.me/EmilySuess.
God, I love Google Drive. Writing a scene today triggered a memory of mine from 2013. I wrote a resignation letter to my boss at The Shittiest Job Ever™. And this letter? It was something else. I remember telling my dad about it at the time and he was like, “I’m not telling you not to send it, but are you sure it’s wise to leave like that?”
He wouldn’t have been a very good dad if he hadn’t wondered out loud about my maybe possibly kinda burning bridges. But I was 33, not 23. So believe me, I had thought the damn thing through.
“Dad,” I said, “You don’t understand.”
The letter WAS TWO WHOLE PAGES LONG and CC:ed to HR not just because it was standard procedure but because they also needed to have it spelled out that there were capital-R Reasons I was leaving without giving the standard 2 weeks’ notice. It was the most fuck-you thing I’d ever written that didn’t contain any actual cuss words.
Anywho, I was thinking, Gee I really wish I had saved that, when I vaguely remembered sending it to a co-worker and a couple of friends via email after the fact. I searched Gmail for “resignation letter” and found the link (that I’d sent out more than five years ago) to the Google Drive doc. Was it still there? I clicked excitedly. Yes!
Reading it opened a memory floodgate in a corner of my brain that was just collecting dust post-chemo. I don’t have plans to write at any length about that job in my memoir because it’s largely irrelevant to the story I’m telling, but a steady trickle of memories from that same period started pooling at my feet—memories that I had only partially been able to recall began flowing in much more complete form. Which, you know, makes writing about them exponentially easier.
As of today, I have 34,027 words in my first draft.
So, that whole writing a book/memoir* thing? It’s still happening. Somehow I’ve managed to type up more than 25,000 words. That puts me halfway to my goal of 50,000 words for the WIP. (Oh my God, I have a WIP!) Now, I do have a pipe dream of getting this thing traditionally published someday because: medical bills, so 50,000 might be a little light in the end. But for today, drafting something that long is monumental. Feeling well enough to slog out a thousand words a day is even, uh, monumentaler?
Here’s the reason I’m so giddy about this project: I’ve been writing professionally for more than a decade, but always for someone else. Even when clients found me through my blog and said, “I love your voice! Write for me!”, in the end most wanted to make the thing theirs. Totally understandable, BUT! having this chance to write for me—about only the things I want to write about, in no one’s voice but my own—feels surreal, and a little indulgent. Even though I know I’m only afforded the time to do it because I’m tumored and disabled. Dan is super supportive and is picking up the domestic slack while I disappear inside myself for a few hours a day, probably because he wants me to make him look good when it’s time to write his chapter.
It’s already apparent my FitDesk hours for September are going to be less impressive than last month, but I’m making my peace with it. Yeah, I know the whole point of the FitDesk is to be able to work and ride, but I really like writing on the couch. I still try to ride regularly and color (see above), but I’m not feeling robust enough to pedal for 90 minutes a day and squeeze in a couple hours of writing. Chronically sick bodies require an abundance of rest, you know.
That’s my update. I’ll see ya when I see ya.
Coloring page taken from Art Nouveau: Coloring for Everyone.
*Even though “memoir” is technically what I’m writing, and I love reading the genre, I hate the word “memoir.”