This is it
This is life, the one you get
So go and have a ball
This is it
Straight ahead and rest assured
You can’t be sure at all
So while you’re here, enjoy the view
Keep on doing what you do
Hold on tight, we’ll muddle through
One day at a time
Up on your feet
Somewhere there’s music playing
Don’t you worry none
We’ll just take it as it comes
One day at a time
For those of you under 45 or who grew up in other countries where this show might not have aired, this is the lyric to the theme song of a 1970’s sit com called One Day at a Time. It starred Bonnie Franklin and Valerie Bertinelli and was about a single mother raising two teenage daughters. It spoke to my personal reality as an only child being raised by both my single parents (in separate houses at different times). It was also the reality of many of my school friends. We had one friend in our group who came from a nuclear family and she was considered the weirdo back then.
I’ve been thinking of this ditty a lot lately.
The last few months have found me in a terrible depression over how poorly Book One has been doing. I put everything I had into it, body, soul and bank account. I gave ‘til it hurt. I mean really hurt. In return I’ve received a heaping mound of bupkis. At least so far. I understand that there may yet be that one random soul who runs a super popular book blog that falls in love with my story and starts blabbing about it to his or her thousands of followers. I hope that person is out there, but after seven months of trying every possible channel of promotion I could think of or afford . . . it’s hard to keep the faith. Very, very hard. Impossible, in fact.
Book Two in first draft form has been sitting in this enormous disjointed pile on my kitchen table for months. I’ve poked at a few of the first chapters with the red pen, but then I lose heart and toss it aside. What’s the point, really? If no one is buying or reading the first book, how does it make sense to go to the trouble and expense of producing the second one? Or the third, for that matter, as this was intended to be a trilogy. While there have been a few kind souls who have expressed support and interest in the second book, a few souls aren’t enough to make it worthwhile. Self-publishing is crazy expensive and insanely time-consuming. It is not for sissies, I tell ya.
When I bother to whine about this to other friends who are artists (of all kinds), they’ve all been saying the same thing: you have to write the whole story (all three books) because it’s yours and you’re the only one who can tell it. It won’t leave you until it’s told.
This is more than true. It’s actually become sort of a burden. These characters have been with me for seventeen years and are clearly not going anywhere. That means the little sit com ditty is true. This is it; the life I got. This is my mission. I’ve been having a terrible struggle imagining myself NOT being able to have this be my mission, but when I try to force myself to work on the edits for Book Two, I just fizzle out. I’ve learned a lot through this experience about myself as an artist.
Some artists are perfectly fine to be alone with their muse and the creations put into them thereby. They don’t need to have the work they produce seen or heard or experienced. They just need to do it. I am an artist who needs to be seen—at least I need the product to be seen. Read, discussed, loved or hated, but consumed. If consumption isn’t happening, then there’s no steam to run the locomotive. This steam cannot be falsely created just by telling myself to buck up and press on. This leaves me with a dilemma I’m not sure how to solve.
I can’t force myself to keep going without some solid motivation, but I also can’t not go forward. This painful state of paralysis is where I’ve been living for the last six months. Over the holiday break (Hollywood shuts down between Christmas and New Year’s so many people take that full two weeks off—I always do), I was constantly visited by my patient characters from Arabesque. They gently reminded me (well, if relentless dreams and constant nagging can be called ‘gentle’) that we have a job to do together. A thing to finish. A story to tell. They insisted, even though I kept telling them to sod off, that we are in no way done here.
I know they’re right, of course, but I’m still stuck in the mud of having no motivation. I want to note here that all this paralysis in no way suggests I have any less love for this story. I adore it and always will. If it were a real world, I’d want to live there forever and hang out with these people all the time. I’d sit in the corner of their rehearsal studio with a tanker of coffee and just watch them dance all day long. I’d be a fly on the wall in Elijah and Reid’s bedroom listening to them talk to each other. I’d be having drinks with Eli and Lucy, and pizza with Reid, Tess and Chad. I would never tire of their banter and angst. I’d feed the cats and empty the dishwasher.
Like the song says, this novelist thing is my “it”; the “one life I get”. I have to be responsible to this gift and these lovely characters who have trusted me for so long. As noble as all that sounds, it still doesn’t help with my motivation. I truly wish I knew what would help. I’ve sort of told myself that I have to go forward, like it or not, motivated or not, because this is what I do; who I am. I’m hoping that will at least get me to organize that pile of printed paper and stock up on red pens.
I turn 50 this summer and, as yet, I don’t have much to show for my life other than some interesting experiences, and some wonderful friends. And some excellent cat stories. I have a big journey planned for the end of the year where I will return to my beloved UK. I have small celebrations planned throughout the year so I can raise a glass with as many of my loved ones as possible. 50 is big. I never expected to live this long so I have to pay proper respect to the fact that I’m still standing. I figure if I just focus on one day at a time, one task at a time, one plan for the trip at a time, one chapter edited at a time . . . that I’ll actually make some progress. That’s what I’m going to do, anyway.
Here’s hoping this one day at a time thing has some gas.