Friday, October 26, 2007

Is it a Sign?

I'm over my embarrassment enough to explain what happened.

I was trying to apply to a writer's retreat. In order to do this, I needed to prepare a ten-page original writing sample, and two essays. I started at least six weeks before the deadline. I know myself, I know how family life goes, I know that everything creative takes at least three times longer than a reasonable person would expect.

Still, I found myself down to the wire, and struggling. You would not believe how hard I worked on this application. I haven't done that much soul-searching about my art in...well, maybe never.

The night before I was to send out the packet, as my ancient printer slowly choked out the writing sample, I gathered the rest of the materials for the application. I wrote the date on the check for the application fee: 9/25/07. I glanced at the application checklist, where the deadline was printed in bold: ***Applications must be postmarked no later than Sept. 25, 2007***.


I glanced at my watch. Midnight. Midnight of September 25. Which meant that, technically, the date was now September 26. Which meant...

***All applications bearing postmarks after September 25 will be returned unopened***

...which meant I had just fucked myself.

I sat at my desk and stared at nothing. Was this for real? How had this happened?

My brother-in-law, a manic-depressive painter, happened to be in the same room, working feverishly on his own project on another computer.

"Tim," I said. "I missed the deadline."

"What?" he said. "You mean all this work you've been doing is for nothing?"

"Um, yeah, I think so. I can't believe I did this. How could I not notice the date? Oh my God, I'm a moron."

Tim, across the room, turned back to his computer screen. "I've done that many times," he said flatly.

"But I can't apply for another year," I whined.

"I've missed deadlines where I couldn't apply for another two years," he said.

How could this happen? Everyone knew my deadline! Even my husband, upon whom I rely to remember dates and deadlines. He's Rainman-like about these things. Had he not been so obsessed and focused and stressed out over his stuff that week (multiple job interviews), I feel certain that he would have corrected me that Wednesday was actually the 26th, not the 25th.

It is frustrating in the extreme that the first time I've abandoned myself completely to a creative project in a few years, I screwed it up by not knowing the date. I worked my ass off. I didn't cook or clean or walk the dog or play with the children or practice yoga for a week straight because I was so busy with this. I really had to set everything else aside to get continuity. It worked, at least creatively speaking. My tether to reality snapped, but the creative part worked. I stand by my old assertion (made cavalierly before I had children) that it takes at least six hours per sitting to write anything. (Blogs appear to be an exception, thank the Lord.)

I refuse to take this whole experience as a sign that I just should give up. Here's why: 1. I've already tried to give up writing, and failed repeatedly. 2. The triumph of finishing the writing, and the joy of doing the writing, and the pleasure of being lost in it for days and days, is better than anything else, maybe even sex. 3. I can try it again next year. 4. I fucking finished! I am a star just for that.

My dad is an artist and most of the time he doesn't know his phone number or whether or not he put on underwear that day. My brother and I like to joke that it's brain damage from a lifetime of chemical excess. Maybe it is. But there's something to the fact that he lives his life in his right brain.

Now I just need to make my own retreat happen.


Jane said...

Oh, wow. It's like missing the ferry by one minute because you had extra time and stopped for a latte on the way, only to figure out you read the schedule wrong and the ferry left 5 minutes ago. ONly worse.

Whenever I get hours and hours to develop an idea or a vision I feel filthy stinking rich. Sounds like you got to enjoy that feeling. Good as gold.

susie said...

Oh, yes, reading boat schedules is another talent I don't have.

If being a mother has taught me any life skills, it's that one should always prepare oneself for a diaper blowout, or its equivalent, RANDOM SHIT.

Random shit is what we should always expect, rather than our classic Western, infantile expectaion that everything will proceed according to plan.

Filthy rich, yes. Perfect description. Not to mention selfish.