It’s really hard for me to grasp that it’s been a whole year since I moved out of Brooklyn and back down to North Carolina. In a lot of ways this place and this life down here still feel new. I saw three blue jays and a rabbit today, and it was a totally normal day. I drive everywhere, and even though I literally do that every day it still surprises me sometimes. My shoes are lasting longer. I don’t need to use an umbrella as much when it rains. I eat a lot more french fries.
One of the biggest things that’s different down here is that I’m not constantly surrounded by other writers. Part of me wants to say that’s not a North Carolina thing, it’s a result of leaving that huge writers’ group on Facebook and not working at a job with other writers and not having an in-person writing group anymore either. But the fact is that New York is where the writers are. A lot of them, at least. I worried about this when I first thought about moving – would I still be a writer if I removed myself from the place where writers live? Writers live everywhere of course. And I’m slowly meeting others down here, but it’s not as easy to literally run into them. (Driving everywhere, remember?)
What’s funny is I’ve actually done more writing in the year since I moved here than I did the entire last two years I lived in New York. I wrote a whole damn book! But now I find myself having finished that book, with only small edits and administrative tasks remaining, and I’m staring at days and weeks and months ahead of just… normal life. Getting up, going to work, working a normal day like a normal person, getting home around five and then having hours to just…. well I don’t know what! This is the biggest difference between living in Brooklyn and living in central North Carolina – reasonable working hours, short commute – and I haven’t actually been able to enjoy it much until now. And I … don’t know what to do with it. So naturally I’m coming up with all kinds of new ideas for projects. And even though I know I can do it now – I know I can sell an idea, a project, a book – I still have that fear in the back of my mind that if I try to go through with any of these things I’ll be found out as a fraud, a hack, a person who isn’t special, isn’t actually a writer.
After work today I called my grandmother. She lives about 500 miles away, so I call her once a month or so to talk. I told her that now that I’ve got some free time, I keep worrying – that’s the word I used, not thinking or brainstorming but worrying – about what to write next.
“It will come to you,” she said. “Just give it time.”
I so often feel like I don’t have time. This is another thing I’d like to blame on living so many years in New York, but I’ve actually been this way since I was a kid, always rushing from one thing to another, always trying to go fast and over and through to the next thing. I’m impatient – I’ll be the first one to say it. I interrupt people (I’m working on that) because I’m so excited to get to the next part of the conversation; I give up on new hobbies (knitting, guitar playing, calligraphy, scrapbooking, canning, etc etc etc…) because I don’t feel like I have time to learn. I mean, what if I never learn? What if I never get there, despite hours or weeks or years of trying?
I know how cliche this sounds, but talking to my 85-year-old grandmother helped put this into perspective for me today. The conversation didn’t cure me of my impatience or impostor syndrome, but it reminded me not to try to force things. The result of rushing work is that I feel harried and anxious, even when I complete something, and I’m so ready to move on I can’t really enjoy the accomplishment. The result of talking over others is less human connection. The result of giving up every time something takes “too long” to learn is never knowing which of those things I might have actually been able to do if I gave myself a chance.
For some reason, I gave myself the chance to write The Future of Feeling. The planets aligned and I met the right people at the right time who gave me the right encouragement, and I was in the right place to receive all of that, and I let myself do it. I have no idea if that magic will ever happen again. That slow growing of a seed of an idea while I wasn’t even paying attention, until I was in the right place with the right tools to cultivate it. Now that I’ve done it once, I feel like I’m watching the ground too closely. If I take my grandmother’s advice, I might miss the next one. Or maybe I’ll shut my brain up long enough to actually see it.