I wrote a book. Actually, I wrote two books.
A lot of you know this. I’ve mentioned it in passing. Or on Instagram. A lot of you know everything about me because you’ve been with me since Kendragarden.com. Or waaaay pre-Twitter like Drink Kendra Drink. Or Impersonals. Or, gawd, what was that first early 2000s blog called? Stuff & Things? Doohickies.com? Something. Anyway, to you guys, I want to say I FREAKING LOVE YOU and I’m sorry I’ve been absent. I’ve been focused on writing fiction. Obsessed might be a better word than focused. I jumped in the deep end and everything else suffered. I deleted the Kendragarden fan page from Facebook, I moved the blog over here and let the old url expire, I haven’t written a listicle in over a year, and I’ve only been updating here every few months. I’ve let this part of me collect dust. But, I’ve missed sharing every thought and feeling with you and now I have SO MANY thoughts and WAY TOO MANY feelings. Thus, this post, which I can see is gonna turn into postS now that I’m all up in this mess. So, hang in there with me. I’m gonna write it all down and work it all out.
Joan Didion said it best: “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.”
I’ll start at the beginning. I’ve always loved to write basically anything. I was thrilled to get to write even when I was unpaid, even when I was writing weekly recaps of America’s Next Top Model or interviewing someone about the opening of a store in the Glendale Galleria. I always felt lucky to do it and it’s always been fun for me. For many years I wrote articles, listicles, sponsored posts, advice letters, essays for anthologies, forwards for books, blogs, anything anyone would let me write. I loved all of it. But, I realized what I really wanted was a book. I wanted to hold a book in my hand with my name and only my name on the cover. I’ve always been a bibliophile and having my own book seemed like the epitome of awesomeness to me. MY OWN BOOK. I mean, can you even imagine?
I could imagine. I could imagine a little too vividly. I wanted it too much. (More on that in a later post.)
I spent a couple of years writing a series of book proposals. This seemed like the right move. I mean, I wrote non-fiction. It’s what I did! I’d been told over and over again that I was good at it, that I had a unique voice. I had a kick-ass agent who was collaborative, smart as hell, and great at her job. It was the logical step. Some publisher would buy a book, I’d write it with a cool editor, and all would be right with the world.
Two of the proposals were great ideas. One of them, in retrospect, sorta sucked. Like, my mom would’ve liked it but I can see why no one bought it. But, the other two, well, I worked my ass off on them and they were good. I was proud of my work. My agent was proud. And, the thing is that the editors seemed to like them too. I got great glowing comments back. We got super duper crazy close with one of them. But, ultimately, they didn’t want to take a chance on me. I was a first time author. They didn’t know which section of a bookstore to put my book in. (My response? UM, ALL OF THEM?) I wasn’t Chelsea Handler. (An actual note was that I was funny like Chelsea Handler but didn’t have her platform. I LOL-ed at that. I mean, ONLY CHELSEA HANDLER IS CHELSEA HANDLER, DUH. *prayer hands*) The process was gutting and exhilarating and terrible and fascinating. And, it almost destroyed me.
For a long time after that final rejection of the final proposal, I’d obsessively think about where I went wrong. I thought I knew. Clearly, I wanted it too much. I was too desperate. The industry was too snobby. I didn’t have a writing degree from a fancy school, just an acting BFA from a state school. I didn’t have a crazy enough story to tell. I didn’t have enough Twitter followers. The universe was against me. I was a Pisces. But, these were all just excuses devised to make myself feel better. I was just trying to save face – with other people, yeah, but, mainly, with myself. I couldn’t stand feeling like a loser. I couldn’t stand being exposed as the imperfect pile of issues and vulnerabilities that I was and am. I brutally berated myself. My constant inner dialogue was: failure, failure, failure in a terrible sing-songy voice like a jerk on a playground. I wondered why my talented friends still hung out with me. I mentally slapped myself upside the head every second of every day. I got really good at it. I got depressed and anxious. I started having panic attacks. I felt jealous of friends’ book deals even as I felt happy for them. Then I felt guilty for feeling jealous, which made me hate myself even more. I started seeing a therapist.
It was a whole deal.
And, it’s not like I’m special. Tons of writers go through this exact thing. Same with artists and dancers and actors and directors and stand-ups and those dudes in Vegas who somehow sit on their own heads. It’s the life. Feeling like you’re worth nothing is as much a part of the creative process as creating. I went through the same thing when I was an actor. The difference this time was that I wouldn’t give up. I couldn’t. So, I just kept wanting and wishing and cursing and blaming myself. I was, like, THE BEST at self-hatred, you guys. I deserve a gold star engraved with the words “I suck.” (Oh, man, now I actually sorta want that for my denim jacket.)
Then, I realized something important. All of my ideas for book proposals were me trying to be clever. I tried to brainstorm what would sell. I attempted to force it. This might work for an article. I’m fairly good at knowing what will get those clicks. But, an entire book? Something I’m pouring my whole being and soul into? No, that should come from the heart, not the brain. The books I was proposing were memoir essays. In other words, they were about ME. A cutesy concept alone wasn’t gonna cut it. I think that somehow those editors reading my work KNEW I just wasn’t that into it. (Well, that and they knew I wasn’t Chelsea Handler.) Would I have enjoyed writing any of those three books I proposed? Sure. Would I have LOVED writing them. Nope. It would’ve felt like work. Work I’d have been thrilled to have but still work.
So, in 2015, to heal myself, I started writing a fiction novel. My intention was to have fun and that was it. I wrote what I wanted to, when I wanted to, with no expectations. I let it flow from the heart, from the essence of me. I lost myself for hours. I made myself laugh. I didn’t think anyone would ever see it. But, now I (deep breath) want people to see it.
I want you guys to see it.
(TO BE CONTINUED…)
*I’ve decided the accompanying pics to these posts will be unfiltered bathroom selfies I never intended other humans to see. Because fuck it.