I figured something out about myself this week. It started after I wrapped my last gig on Tuesday, and then headed out to Santa Barbara for a mini vacation I'd been planning for about a month. When people asked me why I was going away I proudly told them "I just need to go somewhere to write." Because I had this fantasy that I'd be sitting on a balcony, staring at the ocean and words would flow out of me like earl grey out of a hot teapot. I had this idea that if I was in the right place, the right setting I'd suddenly be filled with inspiration again.
The fantasy was ruined when I realized that I'd booked a room with a shockingly expensive view of the parking lot. I took that as a sign that instead of writing my sure-to-be masterpiece, I was instead supposed to crack open a book. Sylvia Plath's, The Bell Jar to be precise. I read until I felt sick, staying up much later than I normally do, rolling her words around in my mouth like cold stones. No writing was done that day.
The next morning I woke with purpose, called the front desk and requested a room upgrade. A step in the right direction, but when I sat down at my desk I found myself staring at a black computer screen in complete silence, picking at the shift button that had slowly been worn away after years of furiously capitalizing journal entries and text messages. "I've still got time." I thought to myself, and I snapped my laptop shut and headed for the pool, book in hand. I got lost inside the pages, coming up for air only when it was time for my spa appointment. Put your judgments aside about my bougie lifestyle for a moment and remember that I was on vacation.
Afterwards, as I was walking back to my room, with the full intention of sitting down and putting pen to paper, I saw the hotel salon and decided I needed to get my hair blown out. Pure avoidance at this point. I sat in the chair while a blonde woman blew hot air into my head to make the strands smooth and soft, bragging to her about how I was a "writer", here on vacation to write. I didn't tell her that I hadn't actually written anything since my arrival the day before, but instead told her all about the "series of essays" I was working on. That I needed to be near the ocean to find something meaningful enough deep inside of me, worthy of sharing. I also didn't tell her that this mysterious "series of essays" were only to be shared on my shitty blog and hadn't been commissioned by some publishing house or online journal. Semantics.
I feel like an imposter. When I describe myself as a "writer" the words come out clunky, stuck. Like even they know it's a stretch. Writing is in my blood, but somehow that makes it even harder. I might be letting down my ancestors, or even offending them. I offend myself sometimes, especially now, because the cliche of people writing about writing is very high on my list of things I absolutely hate, second only to smoothie "recipes". Here's a recipe for you:
I was floored when I entered my new room, appointed with a large deck lined with clay tiles. The ocean rolled out in front of me, and in my excitement I ran into the screen door on my way out to bask in the glory of my new view. After gently sliding the door open I laid out on a lounge chair, eyes closed, and listened to the sound of the water. I felt the tips of my fingers tingling, my head buzzing, a tingle in my throat. Was this the inspiration I'd been searching for? I sneezed. It was gone.
The night ended on the deck, watching the sunset with a deep dish pizza (vegan!!!) and sparkling water poured into a wine glass. Hoping that if I felt fancy enough I'd find what I was looking for. I'd reached desperation at this point, after all I had everything that I normally needed; A day of relaxation, inner reflection, and a sunset. But I had nothing. I paced around the room, looking like an idiot with my hair blown out for no reason, feeling like I'd wasted my entire vacation. I reluctantly cuddled up with a blanket and dove into the remaining pages of The Bell Jar and wondered if I might have been Sylvia Plath in a former life, that maybe my bell jar was this hotel room in Santa Barbara. Suffocating me and any hope I had for writing anything meaningful. I rested my head on my pillow, accepting defeat as sleep washed over me. No writing was done that day.
On the final day I woke, expecting to feel a cloud above me. Instead I felt clear and rested, I threw open the screen door and let the cool air cover me. I felt it. Suddenly, everything I'd been waiting for came all at once. Idea after idea jumped into my notebook, and then onto my keyboard. I didn't even have time to question it, where it came from, and all I could do was allow it. Magic. At one point I even used a thesaurus, like some sort of literary genius or something. I thought about running down to tell the blonde lady about my finished pieces, but was honestly a little afraid I'd lose control of myself and have my hair blown out again.
Everything I write won't always be amazing, or thought provoking or a masterpiece. Sometimes it will just be whatever's been trapped in my head and dying to get out, like this essay you're currently reading. I'll always have a hard time considering myself a writer, but writer's write, right? I guess that's what I did. So much writing was done that day.
You know what I learned about myself? I need to lower my damn expectations sometimes.