I was sitting in a mandatory work training when a copy of the latest proof of “Wave to Papa” fell out of my bag. My boss picked it up. She saw the cover and byline, and whispered “Do you do cocaine? Where do you find the time? …Do you sleep?” I choked on my coffee.
Fortunately, we were working in small groups and no one was officially speaking as this show, which brought on quite a few laughs, went down. I wasn’t quite sure how to answer her. Aside from the fact that I don’t do any illegal drugs, I do see her point. The look on her face was comical – a mix of amazement and contempt. This is a boss who often comes to me to write up quick treatment plans and other paperwork because I type so fast and don’t seem to require more than four hours of sleep a night. And while her question was great as a first-day-of-spring-but-stuck-inside tension breaker, it got me thinking on the drive home.
What makes me stay up at night while the rest of the world is sleeping to write? First, it’s my oldest child, type A nature never to quit. I always finish what I start. But there’s something more to it than that. It’s not just that my kids are watching me and that I want to show them that you have to keep working at something to achieve a dream. Instead, I determined, it’s that I truly am passionate about what I am doing.
I’m not sure if it’s the topics of my books or my innate love of written expression that I love so much. It’s likely a combination of both. Obviously, as a therapist, people interest me! But telling their stories and giving voices to those that don’t have voices is where my heart really is. Clearly, my characters are fictional. But they come about through a special blend of qualities I admire in various clients from different walks of life. There’s something special about finding out what a single mother with five kids at home has in common with a stressed out bachelor who drives a new sports car. My passion is in finding their common ground and story – and then putting it to the page.
I’ve had some pretty big stumbles on the journey to print “Crazy Like Me” as of late. First, there are ongoing conversations between editors and the publisher regarding tense changes. Currently, the manuscript is in the present tense. That was done intentionally – an early-on editing change that made the characters jump off the page. But, because it’s not the traditional way to go with a first novel, there is now resistance to this change. And as debates swirl around editing of this manuscript – one I hope is through polishing on time in only a few months – I’ve had to harness the passion I feel in my mission to share stories to keep myself writing. Truth is, I wanted to quit. Heck, I want to quit! But I won't.
It’s easy to quit. It’s easy to say “publishing is too hard” or “I’ll just be a reader.” Heck, it’s probably easier to start a coke habit and spend the night hours watching TV and painting my nails. With the right combination of meds, my clients all seem to sleep! But there’s something about believing in yourself, even with people working against you, that keeps me jotting down the smallest ideas in the oddest of places at the strangest hours.
When faced with the temptation to quit or start that drug addiction, I remind myself of a quote in “Crazy Like Me” – “Maybe it’s not about the happy ending, maybe it’s about the journey.” This is something I repeat to my clients all the time.
Maybe my long nights and own story are not much different than those of my clients. The point could be to continue to climb these hills, hoping – even if blindly – that there will be a reward on the other side. It’s a way I encourage clients to define themselves through narrative therapy and a definition I’m finding is beginning to ring true for me too.
What I’ve learned? Just like my clients and characters share similar challenges and triumphs, I do too! I’m as much a part of this story as they are – sober, crazy, and ready to keep on keeping on! Tonight, as I dive into a third-round polish mark up and put “Wave to Papa” on the shelves for a bit, I’ll remind myself that it’s passion that has me doing this. While it may be crazy, it’s also why I can continue to believe in me – no different than how I believe in the lives and stories I’ve grown so zealous about writing about. So, here's to another round and many more sleepless nights. Thank you, Passion!