I may be in a rut.
And by this I mean I don’t really know what to write about anymore. I haven’t been baking anything (except for some brownies for the fake gamblers…which, in hindsight, might have been a classic post. [My entire life, I have had more cocoa powder than I have known what to do with…so I assumed I’d have plenty of cocoa to make brownies a few weeks ago…but I didn’t — the Cocoa Elves snuck in and stole it all in the middle of the night? — so I had to improvise with some baking chocolate and semisweet chips…and I ended up with some pretty pale brownies…which was sort of ironic as I had *just* been talking to one of the fake gamblers about Julia Child and her “Never apologize!” dictum…and yet it was really, really hard to dish up mildly chocolate brownies (of a caramel hue!) and not explain that my cocoa stash was suddenly gone and I had to use up whatever chocolate remained in my “pantry” (that, by the way, is really just an Ikea bookshelf with sawed-off legs)]).
…but, let’s be honest — my blog hasn’t strictly been about baking — or even food — in a long time. (In fact, I have a friend who just launched a blog, No Chive Left Behind, and each entry has three succinct parts about a meal or recipe — What’s in the Fridge?, The Creative Process, and The Verdict — which proves how much of a foodie she is…(and, by association, what a foodie I am not). Don’t get me wrong — I like food…and I like baking/cooking…but I’m just not really the kind of person who would go out of her way to purchase artisanal food products…which I think explains why my career at Gourmet didn’t pan out. (I even had to look up guanciale. See? Lisa = Fraud. [Or maybe I’m just the Sandra Lee to her Giada or something.])
…and now here I am on Plan F or G or H by now…and I’m still trying to follow the advice of my elders to do what I love…while also supporting myself. And it’s the same thing I’ve been whining about for eons, I guess…except that this time I have my rent covered with fake gambling (which is par for the course with my less-than-traditional lifestyle, isn’t it? [Also worth noting: My aunt says my uncle has taken to calling me, “Diamond Lil Lacy.”])…but I think I’ve allowed myself to stagnate a little. Part of it is because I was sick for a good week or so…but I’ve been better for at least a week and still haven’t done much. The beauty of this schedule is that I gamble three mornings a week to pay my rent and it takes all the pressure off of drumming up freelance assignments to cover that ghastly monthly sum…but the point is that I should be spending those three afternoons — and four full days, really — writing…and I haven’t exactly. And part of me feels like that’s okay…that sometimes it’s okay to just, you know, be for awhile…while the rest of me is saying, “What are you talking about?? Time’s-a-wasting!”
But part of the problem is that I don’t really like the query I sent out to my first five potential agents…and, frankly, I don’t quite know what to do about the second half of my book draft. I was sort of hoping that one of these agents would respond to my query and want to see more and that would be the kick in the pants I need to actually finish it…but…it’s been radio silence…which I guess means I need to give it a shot in the arm and try again. But how? There’s so much to fix:
1. I have 100,000 words under this loose, “How to Do What You Love…And in My Case, Make Money By Writing”-theme…and I think the first 50-60K are fairly solid. But then I get into this post-J-school phase…and it’s really sort of a mess. People like my stories. If I end up getting a book deal, it will be because of the voice I have cultivated and the stories I have to tell. But…by the time I hit Summer 2008, I still have stories…but they are stories that require a bit more fictionalizing than before. And…admittedly, that fictionalizing has been a lot of fun. I think I’ve created a world that is funny and satirical and self-deprecating…and all the things you’d expect from me. But…at the same time, it’s a pretty drastic departure from my usual, “When I lived in Alaska, I had to dress up like a fairy in a costume that didn’t fit and boy did I feel like an ass,” or “I tried to make a coffeecake for one of my coworkers at midnight and I set off the fire alarm and the Red Hook Raiders showed up and boy did I feel like an ass,” or “I went to a conference in Vegas with my boss and after warning me not to shirk my duties, he abandoned me and blew $4000 on lap dances from Vietnamese strippers and I had to cover for him and boy was I mad…but then I met the Danish National Ballroom Dancing Champion of 1986 and my aunt called in hysterics as I had ordered her a Flamingo Surprise for her 60th birthday…and I was in better spirits.” And I don’t know if it works. Or if it makes any sense to weave back and forth between Basically True, REALLY Fictionalized and Basically True Again.
2. I still haven’t come up with a title that I like. There are so many things — like Cheap Therapy and Keeping the Faith and Confessions of a…– that sort of touch on bits…but nothing that says, “Yes! I’m it!” A friend just made me a mock cover for my first cookbook called, “Eat Pie or Die: Lisa Lacy’s Recipes for the Sweet Life,” which I LOVE…but I’m not sure if it’s The One for this one. SURELY there is something clever out there! Why haven’t I found it yet?
3. Plus, a wonky final third of my “book” means I don’t exactly have an ending. Or at least not a solid one that reads straight through clearly. And if I don’t know *exactly* where this bad boy is going, how can I write a good query? (The answer, I suspect, is that I can’t. But, on the other hand, I’m really good at finding things wrong with everything I write…and I think that if I don’t force myself to continue to send out queries — imperfect or not — that these 100,000 words may stay on my hard drive forever and never become anything more than that. And then I really will die an abject failure, penniless and alone.)
And, you know, without TONS of freelance assignments to keep me out of trouble, I risk falling back into the ol’ mindset that my life is kind of meaningless and everything is pretty much futile. I mean, think about it — my contribution to the universe right now is that I pretend to gamble three days a week. This is what 29 years of blood, sweat and tears has come to. (As if I even need to say it…”Yikes.”) And sometimes I write about Web sites and sometimes I dispense financial advice (even though I am secretly bad at money) and sometimes I cover industries I know nothing about. I really am a big, fat fraud. (Spun another way, I mean, whatever works, right? It keeps a roof over my head. But, still…it’s not the way I thought it would be…which, I am realizing, may actually be one of life’s consistent themes.)
And…as the Olympics wrap up today, I figure it’s worth touching on a lesson of sorts I picked up on after seeing the Dan Jansen Visa commercial over and over…that really congealed in my head after Evan Lysacek won the gold medal in men’s figure skating.
The Visa commercial, for those who missed it on TV and via the link above, talks about how Jansen told his dying sister he was going to win a gold medal…but he failed in the ’88 Olympics. And, though devastated, he came back in ’94 and WON and skated a victory lap with his daughter, who he named after his sister. And it’s so sweet and poignant and seems like it’s one of those things that was totally meant to be and written in the stars…even if it didn’t happen right away. And to think that if he had quit after the ’88 Olympics, none of that wonderful stuff would have happened. So not only does it speak to his character, but it also sort of says to me that maybe there’s some sort of divine plan for all of us…and we just have to be patient enough for everything to congeal? (Did I freak you out? Was that way too out there??)
It’s the same thing with Lysacek, I think. Commentators kept mentioning over and over again that he blew it in Torino…and so it was really super-nice to see him do so well in Vancouver…and, you know, he became the first American man to win gold in figure skating since Brian Boitano in 1988. (Or Scott Hamilton? The NBC site says Scott, but I thought it was Brian…). And, you know, again — if Lyscek had been so distraught by Torino that he never skated again, that quad-jumping, trash-talking Russian guy could quite possibly have another gold medal…and Lysacek would be in his parents’ basement, grumbling, “That should have been me!” instead of tweeting about Oprah and Larry King. (Maybe the universe just really wants to make sure you appreciate it before it rewards you big time?)
My point — if I haven’t beaten a dead horse already — is that it must have been really super-devastating for both Jansen and Lysacek in ’88 and ’06, respectively. And, at the time, (if they are anything like me…), they must have felt like big, fat failures and like everything they had done up until that point was a waste of time. But they didn’t give up and they kept training…and…they had to wait four to six years, but…look what happened! They totally — cliche alert — made their dreams come true. And it happened when the time was right.
So…I guess no matter what it is you want out of life — Olympic medals, book deals, cures for cancer, world peace, chickens for every pot, abs of steel… — you just have to find a way to keep chugging along and keep the faith no matter what. (Which is easier to say than do as I pick up my proposal for the first time in two weeks and dust it off and think, “Oh, geez…”)
I suppose it’s also like what Julie Powell wrote in the autographed copy of Julie & Julia that I got for Christmas: “Keep Writing!” And then maybe eventually — when the universe deems the time is right — I’ll only fake gamble when I *really* want to…