Funny the memories that come back sometimes, and we have no idea what prompted them. Last night, as I was walking out of the grocery store, a memory flashed in my mind, a moment I hadn’t thought about in easily ten years. I was one of the poor kids at a very wealthy university where most students were in fraternities and sororities and drove luxury cars. In a parking lot filled with BMWs, Mercedes and Land Rovers, my car looked like the egg Mork took to Earth. I drove a Geo Metro, basically a pregnant roller skate. It would rattle like it was going to fly apart if I ever got above 65, so it kept me from speeding :D.
Anyway, I worked a lot of jobs and one of those jobs was running a paper route. Suckiest job on the planet. Every night I woke a little after midnight to get to the warehouse, roll papers and bag them, then deliver to three large apartment complexes, no matter how bad the weather. Also, apparently only people on the third floor ever ordered the paper. LOTS of climbing stairs.
Gated apartments were all the new rage in the 90s, and it wasn’t uncommon for the security code not to work, and I’d have to climb a fence. One complex was determined to kill me. They ran the sprinklers all year, even when the temperatures were in the 20s…so I could have fun sliding across large sheets of ice with a thirty-pound bag of Sunday papers.
I worked from one in the morning until about six, then would come home and snooze for an hour on a mattress that had been left by the previous owners of the duplex I rented. I didn’t have “per se” a bed. I’d roll out of my mattress and go to class until lunchtime, often in the same sweatpants and ball cap I wore to work. I didn’t really have any friends. Was too tired for them. When you have a paper route, it is seven days a week, 365 days a year, no holidays. The only way to get a day off is to pay another runner to take your route for a day.
As if this wasn’t tough enough, another aspect of the job required we go door-to-door selling subscriptions. We were expected to have so many new subscriptions per month. A van would pick us up and dump us off who knew where, hand us a map, then arrange to pick us up in three hours. For three hours, we were on our own (and this was before cell phones). One time, I recall being so cold that I hid in an apartment laundry room where someone was running a dryer. I’d been out in the cold for hours with no proper coat (and no subscriptions) and I was frustrated, broke, dirty and hiding in a laundry room.
Hiding in a laundry room will humble even the best :D.
The real fun would come when I’d go to my International Law class to be lectured by a Social Work Girl
(who sported a $1,000 Prada handbag and drove a BMW) how I was heartless and, in her words, “didn’t understand the plight of the poor.”
So last night I have no idea why this memory came back. I’d try to forget the whole “desperate enough to hide in a laundry room” thing, yet there it was. Maybe I remembered this because of yesterday’s Embracing the Meantime post. I can tell you that this “meantime” was tough. Every day was a new struggle.
I bemoaned that I wasn’t one of the trust fund babies who didn’t have to check in with their
parole officer financial aid lady. I longed to be one of the skinny, rich sorority girls who didn’t live on generic mac and cheese and who could actually afford to buy ALL their text books. I “winged” most of my classes and had no idea how I still managed to get good grades.
Yet, in later years, I found out many of those kids never finished school. They threw up in the showers to stay thin and many struggled with alcohol and drug addictions. A few committed suicide. They had everything, yet, in their eyes, they had nothing. They had no hope.
Hope was all that kept me going, the sheer force of will that told me that, if I endured, if I hung on and didn’t quit, that life would be better. I had to climb the mountain. I wasn’t delivered by helicopter, and I was so much better for that. Many of those kids were delivered to the summit by “daddy” and it was the worst thing for them. All they had was the view, and they lacked the euphoric feeling of accomplishing something on their own. “Having it too easy” destroyed a precious part of their souls.
As writers, many of us wish we had it easier, that we didn’t have to have a day job, or have to take care of kids and parents and clip coupons to survive. We want our first book(s) to be runaway best-sellers that make us rich. Yet, I will challenge you to embrace this time and your struggles. Embrace your climb. Pay attention. Write notes. It will make your writing far richer.
Many of you right now are in a ROUGH meantime. You are in the climb of your life with no ropes and barely keeping your grip. These are the experiences that will one day make you an indomitable artist and help you create great fiction. Yes, we spend most of our time in the valley, but when we seek to achieve something big, there is always the climb. We might relish the few moments of being at the summit, but we will always remember the climb. The climb is what makes us stronger.
And the WANA Way? We are not alone!
Are you struggling? Is life tough? Can you think of how this will make your stories better? Have you been through rough times and used that to fuel your fiction? Tell us about it!
I love hearing from you!
To prove it and show my love, for the month of March, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.
I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.
At the end of March I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!