Grabbing the Coconuts

Several years back I wrote a query letter to Harper's Journal, one of the most prestigious literary journals in America. I wrote this query letter, asking if they'd be interested in publishing this or that thing I was seriously contemplating writing and get this, They Wrote Back! That's right, an editor at one of the most hoity-toity literary journals in the country (and possibly the world) wrote to tell me that I had balls (his word, not mine), that I was funny, and that even though they weren't necessarily interested in the particular piece I was proposing, I should keep trying as they could possibly be interested in something else.

That, however, is not the amazing part of this story. The amazing part is... drumroll please... I Never Wrote Back! I strutted the letter here and there, felt great for a week, and then proceeded to gradually forget it entirely until just a few weeks ago, when I was digging through old papers. Why would I do that!?!

Even as I write that story, I find my second brain saying, "yeah, but... you didn't really have anything worth saying and let's face it, you don't focus all that well and you're a little bit plink-plonk in the memory department and any of the writers who end up in Harper's could easily ninja-wordsmith you back into grade-school grammar class."

My second brain just starts going banshee to protect me from situations where I'll risk exposing a part of myself that is really gonna sting if it gets whacked.

My second brain says I don't write fiction so I don't matter, and my life is nothing that would interest anyone else - not like my sister who goes to Greece with chess-playing Princes and whose next job may involve learning to fly without wings in a super-secret facility in the UK (or something like that) - or even like that other friend of mine who works as a nanny to the children of the richest man in the world. That is glamor, my second brain says. That is worth reading about!

My second brain ignores that I slept one room over from the bazillionaire young heir who was dating Emmy Rossum of "Phantom of the Opera" fame whilst planting trees on his ridiculous rural New York summer estate, or that I myself bested Ann Hathaway in a vicious staring contest, or that I have swum at dusk in caiman-infested remote amazonian lagoons, or that I planted a hundred trees naked whilst snow fell in northern British Columbia, or even that just maybe I might have seen or heard something in my twenty-nine years that might be worth mentioning, and might make a real difference.

My second brain is a frickin' coward who makes excuses and avoids conflict and pretends that everyone else is just exactly the same so it's no big deal. It says that everybody's afraid of failure and does stupid things like remove a foot that has obviously made it into a very exclusive door.

However, a girl-friend of mine just told me I shouldn't put my issues onto other people, cause for example her mom thinks everybody else is a paranoid communist since she's a paranoid communist (or something like that) - and that, my friends, is horse scat.

It all starts to come together into one big pile of the stuff. See, that paranoid-communist-child girl-friend is someone I was madly infatuated with at college but I never told her. When this other demi-god man-friend of mine came along and said he liked her, I promptly assumed he was worthier than I and gave up without telling him of my interest. Furthermore, in high school I liked a girl so much I gave her a black eye playing roller hockey. Her dad threatened to beat me black and blue, which of course inspired her to flirt shamelessly with me to the point of playing footsies with me under the table at dinner; but despite all that I still didn't believe she even liked me "in that way" (as they say) until about four years later when she told me, point blank. So, we're talking a PATTERN here!

How did I get like this? Was it my alcoholic, passive-aggressive, emotionally distant step-father? I am pretty sure that guy never even existed. Was I abused in some deeply suppressed way by my kindergarten yoga and basket-weaving instructor? I am going to have to throw a serious doubt on that explanation as well. So what is it?

I am afraid I don't care. As that guy in "Muppets Take Manhattan" says, "peoples is peoples". Maybe not all of them are as bizarrely self-defeating as I am, but that doesn't mean I'm any more stupidumb than anyone else, or that I have to go on living life oblivious to the reality around me, recoiling in fear from any difficult challenge that could expose me as a screw-up. We're all screw-ups, and life doesn't happen in a closet, waiting for screw-upness to go away.

Life happens when we step out of the closet (no pun intended), take life by the coconuts, find what we love and what, I would say, we are made to do, and then do it, without reservation, until we are finally no longer able.

So this is what I am going to do, now, in the place where my past choices have led me. I am going to become disciplined with my one to two hours of disposable writing time each day and I am going to write. I'm going to write until the carpal tunnel gets me and when summer comes I'm going to take any extra time I can finagle and I am going to write some more. I'll write on this blog, but mostly I'll just write my book, wherever that takes me. I will send off my poems to publishers and I will finish illustrations to those other books and I will write, write, write until the last hours of the last days of the summer, at which point I will have a passable draft that I will find a publisher for if I have to spend my son's inheritance on stamps.

Unless, of course, I don't. Because I don't need a book to matter, I only need to love who I am made to be enough to be it, and other people enough to give them as much of myself as I am able. It's all about the love, folks (Walks off humming and skipping).


  1. You go get 'em, tiger! Yay! Three cheers to me from... um... ME!


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