It was the last day of October. Halloween. I woke up with a sense of relief; October is a bad month for me. I don't know what it is, but it's just a bad month. My grandfather died in October. Four years later exactly, my uncle had a stroke. Another uncle died two weeks later. I lost one of my cats one October. It's a bad bad month for me.
This year nothing awful or terrible happened, thank God. Instead I felt an incredible sense of malaise. I felt tired, didn't want to do that much. I knew what it was: my body just gets like this during the fall. I retreat. I read more, I try not to do too much. I write but I try not to get into a serious project. I listen to Vince Guraldi's "Great Pumpkin Waltz." I get weepy. Last night I cried three seperate times during Call The Midwife. I try to be incredibly kind to myself. There's the perfectionist side that's in my head saying man, what a slacker you are, Jennifer Kathleen. You just sit around doing nothing. You have books to write, girl! You need to be doing more! You need to promote yourself more! It's true. I've been reading Pema Chodron, a Buuddist nun who talks about Shenpa, which is the Buddist term for attachment. When I first read it, I thought it was Shemp. Wow, Shemp. Who knew Curly's replacement had Buddist roots?
I got to thinking about my shempas I am attached to my family, my books. My writing. Yet I've been telling people that I was going to do NaNoWriMo this year to finally start over on a novel I've had so much problems with. It's one thing after another: The first twenty pages were lost when my laptop died. The second try I did was incredibly messy and I became discouraged. I finally bit the bullet and wrote an outline, yet the notebook that had the outline was lost. I'm telling you, everytime I have shempa to this novel, something goes wrong.
And yet I keep on thinking you need to write this, you need to write this. I've been trying not to say too much about it; I get worried if I do it will be jinxed. What I can tell you it deals with a historical event. It involved the seventies, San Francisco, Hurricane Katrina. It might be the most political novel I will try to write, the most risky. And maybe because of that risk is why I'm scared. I don't want to fail.
So this month I made myself write everyday, doing basic training. Meditated, then on a whim I bought a new journal. I've been avoiding buying journals; since my handwriting is affected by my learning disability trying to read what I wrote is like Obama and Trump slow dancing. It's just not possible. But I saw the title of the book was called Wreck This Journal. And I thought well hey, I can wreck a journal.
The purpose of the journal is to get it messy. Kerri Smith (who created the concept) has made the point that when something gets wrecked and messy, then something is being created. You don't know what it is, but you just know you're doing something. You're on the right track.
Some of the exercises were easy: write four letter words. Dribble coffee on a page. Write positive messages. Break the spine of the book. Then there was one page that scared yet thrilled me: Rip the page out. Throw it away. Accept the loss.
Hmm. Throw a page away. Not recycling. Ripping a page out of an actual book. This would turn good old shenpa upside down. Yet that's the thing. In writing you have to let your inner Shemp come out. You have to let yourself get your eyes poked, your hair get messed up. You have to accept second best. Shemp always knew he wasn't Curly. Yet he did the best he could. He was good old Shemp!
In the meantime, the Giants won again. San Francisco cheered. A parade would commence of course, on Halloween. I thought it was insane. Halloween is already a national holiday in the City, but a parade as well? Plus I had an appointment I couldn't get of.
I trudged to the City, then managed to escape to the ferry buidling. I sat at Book Passage for a bit, looking at books. I went outside and looked at the water. What was the worst thing that could happen? I wrote a terrible novel. Okay. As Rizzo once sang, there are worst things I can do. But at least I know I gave it a go. But I've had so much bad luck with this one, I thought again. Then I thought of Shemp. Sometimes you have to let yourself be silly and look foolish. Which is so so hard. Yet you have to try.
I took out the journal and ripped out the page. When no one was looking, I threw it across the water. It was gone. I had no shenpa towards that page. Shemp threw it out. I watched as the water took it away,
Causes Jennifer Gibbons Supports
Gilda's Club, Greenpeace, Rosie's Broadway Kids,Westwind Foster Family Agency, Amber Brown Fund, Linda Duncan Fund for Contra Costa Libraries