If we haven’t published anywhere, we fear to call ourselves a writer. Many times we fear judgment about what we write, so we stall, procrastinate and write on the surface. We fear we don’t have an MFA and don’t know enough about the writing craft.
When our short story, poem, or novel is finished, we fear to send out our work to a beta reader because we might hear something about our writing that we don’t want to hear.
One of the biggest fears? Our fear of rejection. We spend so much time perfecting a query and sending it to a lit agent only to never hear from them again, or we get a form rejection, which may be our 25th.
Fear stagnates. We stop flowing, we find ourselves trapped, or producing dull work.
Last week, I came across two helpful blog posts. (One I’d never read before). Both helped me reassess any fears I had about my writing. It is no mistake these posts found me.
The week of November 7 to the 14th is one few people in the state of California and in Ventura County will ever forget.
It’s been an unnerving week where our sense of safety has been shaken.
Like many, I woke to the news of a mass shooting at Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, CA. This time the tragedy was eighteen miles away. Twelve young people killed. The 307th mass shooting in 2018. (I will spare you the photos).
Another blow descended on Ventura County less than 24 hours after the shooting: the Woolsey and Hill Fires.
A tornado of turmoil has hit this county.
Much of the week I kept busy with the Red Cross and checking in with my sister and brother-in-law whose home was in the line of the wildfires.
Luckily her home was saved, but not her neighbors.
Last night, the shock and stress of the past week hit me. I couldn’t stop thinking of the people at Borderline and those directly affected by the fires.
I journaled because the feelings had to go somewhere:
“You were full of hope and laughter, music blared a great dance tune, lights flashed, new faces appeared, familiar ones were greeted. A chorus of friendly voices, the scent of perfume mingled with leather and draft beer. This was a place to relax, have fun, make plans.
The booming crack of gunshots, bullets, stopped the laughter. Some ears recognized the deadly sound. Each bullet shattered a life, safety, hope. Each shot created chaos and turmoil in the state’s safest city.
Minutes later you, a sergeant, sacrificed your life. Cops run into emergency’s, even in the presence of an active shooter. Twenty-nine years on the force, one year to retirement; to future plans.
The dawn rose over groups of traumatized parents and the loved ones of the men and women inside of Borderline. Later, a couple of miles away from the scene, many of you waited to hear of your children, hoping against hope you’d wouldn’t hear the worse news of your life until you did.
Stoic police officers gathered in the same area, keeping frantic media away from the families. Soon you wiped away tears as you glimpsed the police motorcade, on the lobby TV, take your fellow officer from the hospital to the coroner’s office.
You couldn’t be with the hundreds of people lining the streets and highways who came to pay their respects because you had a job to carry out.
Meanwhile, your spouses and loved ones stuffed the crushing dread of ‘it could have been my husband, my wife, my son, my daughter,’ down into their ribcage.”
In the midst of this turmoil, the Santa Ana’s, the devil winds, we call them in Southern California blew through our mountains and valleys. Firestorms blew in the south, east, and west of our cities. The winds had no pity as they sucked up brush, trees, cars, animals, homes, and people in their fiery path.
Hundreds of evacuees waited in their cars in supermarket parking lots watching a surge of red-orange flames crest over ridges; slide down hills, wondering if their home was gone and praying it wasn’t.
We choked on smoke as highways closed, flames on both sides. Evacuation shelters opened up in several cities, staffed with Red Cross and other volunteers, taking in the elderly, families, and homeless.
On the sixth day of fires, we still had the smoke.
Cell towers burned, cable lines melted, the internet went out and some people actually complained.
Today, the seventh day, the Camp Fire still rages. It’s devasted a town, killing 48 people, with 103 still missing.
I’ve been in the midst of digesting an editorial letter on a manuscript I sent in for editing. The information was a lot to process and there’s a ton of work in front of me. I’ve felt overwhelmed with the task of rewriting and revision.
Feeling overwhelmed happens to all of us. Sometimes it’s the kids, or bills, or relatives, or your job and sometimes it’s a combination of all of the above.
Whenever I feel my mind swamped, I need to step back, for my own sanity.
June is a good month to reinvigorate and revitalize.
Some people can’t take a costly vacation so Staycations are good ways to do something different as well as refresh yourself.
This month, I found a few ways to relax:
One Saturday was Global Wellness Day. The Bacara Resort and Spa in Santa Barbara offered free classes all day:
Meditation on the bluff, yoga, Tai Chi, and Brazilian Capoeira. Not that I did the Capoeira. A highlight of the day was also receiving a reduced price for the spa day pass to use the pool, sauna, jacuzzi, and serenity room filled with teas, fruit, nuts, and cushy sofas.
A walk on the beach helped me to further relax.
Another day, I used a Christmas gift coupon I hadn’t made time for. This is the Salt Caves in Santa Barbara.
The caves are made from 45 tons of 250 million-year-old pure Himalayan salt. We took off our shoes, entered the darkened cave and reclined on comfortable chairs. Meditation music is piped in for forty-five minutes. The salt is said to stimulate wellness and healing. Blissful.
The next week, I retired to my backyard and took in the colors of the garden, the sounds of birds, smelled the roses and felt reflective. I jotted down a poem.
Hover of beating wings flit between blossoms
Flutters of orange dance above purple sage
Bumblebees disappear into white throats of lilies
Gardens, never silent, ever hopeful
After these mini-retreats I feel uplifted and ready to tackle the edit letter and line edits. My mind is refreshed and I’m “ever hopeful.”
Senator McConnell employed a seldom-used rule on Senator Elizabeth Warren last week, but in the end, his words unleashed a new battle cry for thousands if not millions of women.
His attempt to quiet her angered people to the point where his quote trended on Twitter and became a business enterprise of tee-shirts, cups, and demonstration signs.
He may have shut her up for the moment, but not in the long run.
This emerging battle cry pokes at tender memories of times when people attempted to shut us (women) up.
For me, the words, “Nevertheless, she persisted,” took me back to my childhood.
In the kitchen sat my uncle, the older brother to my mom. The thud of a Coors beer can hit the metal table. Something pissed him off. My aunt shooed us into the living room.
“What do you mean, school?”
Mom told him she signed up for night school to get her diploma.
“Mothers take care of their kids, they stay home. We live two hours away, who’s gonna watch them? Not strangers.”
His wife didn’t work outside the home. She took care of us during the summers, when Mom worked two jobs. Mom was divorced, four kids under nine years old.
Usually, my uncle was a loving brother, a responsible man who financially helped us whenever he could. My aunt always there with a burrito, glass of milk and a joke to make us laugh.
Mom gave him the details about night school, classes from seven to ten at night, four days a week. She had a babysitter for us, a neighbor. She could get her high school diploma in a year if she worked hard, and she promised she would.
“You don’t need a diploma to work the packing house.”
I could see her enthusiasm wane, her smile faded. She picked at her fingernails. Mom turned into a little girl before my eyes. I wanted to tell my uncle Mom worked hard, she stood for eight to ten hours, her hands sorting vegetables in a cold factory. Her plastic apron stunk, even after she washed it late at night. But he knew that already.
“I don’t want to work in the fields or a factory for the rest of my life. I want an education.”
My uncle made decent money working construction, they had a house, a car. We lived in the projects, no car and had to eat powdered eggs and have Spam for dinner.
“I can get a better job with a high school diploma, go to community college …”
His fist hit the table. “Ay, sí, college. What the hell are you thinking?”
Mom shrunk into her chair.
“You don’t even have a car,” he said.
“I’ll take the bus, like we do now,” Mom’s voice grew stronger.”Or walk.”
This scene persisted after my uncle and aunt left. A neighbor, a man who encouraged his sons to go to college, acted like my uncle when he heard Mom attended night school.
She received her diploma a year later. After that, she went to on to community college. My uncle bought her a beat up used car, but it got her to the next city to attend night classes.
Mom graduated with her A.A degree the same year I graduated from eighth grade. She scrimped and saved, sought out every scholarship, and applied for better jobs. Four years later, working full time, she earned two Bachelor of Science degrees from a Cal State University.