# of literary mags submitted to: 3
# of agents queried: 2
writing progress made: finished a story, but it’s very, very bad
The other day I taught Sergey, my Ukrainian tutee, the word “accomplish.” Today, when I reviewed the word with him, I said, “tell me some things that you have accomplished in your life.”
“I do not think I have any.”
“You don’t have any accomplishments?” I asked, surprised. He’s the CEO of a successful international company. Maybe he was unsure what the word meant.
“I think,” he said, “I will not accomplish anything until I die.”
“Oh my,” I said.
“In my mind, accomplish means you have finished something – correct?”
“So, in my mind, I will not finish anything until I die. Everything I do, I can always do more, do better.”
* * *
Today I went to get my hair cut at classy Pro Cuts where a haircut is only $13.99. Almost immediately I was taken into the back by an awkward-looking girl with short, dark curls and a round face.
She sat me down, and I told her I just wanted a trim – an inch off the bottom.
“That doesn’t sound too hard,” she mumbled, fumbling with the plastic hair clips on the counter. She sprayed my hair with water then juggled her comb in one hand and her scissors in the other. She started cutting with her shoulders hunched and her eyes squinting behind her thick glasses. She seemed extremely uncomfortable, and I wondered for a moment if this was the first time she’d ever cut someone’s hair. Despite the name, it doesn’t seem like Pro Cuts is a place where one needs a lot of experience to get hired.
All around us, the other hairdressers snipped and chatted easily with their customers. My girl glanced around nervously and then said softly, “So, uh, are you done with your Christmas shopping?”
“Oh gosh no,” I said. “I just started. I don’t like to rush it.”
“Yeah,” she said. She went on cutting. I was relieved. I didn’t really want to make small talk anyway.
“Do you have children to buy for?” she asked after a long moment.
“Nope, no children,” I said.
I started to feel sorry for the girl. All day she has to try to make small talk with people while cutting their hair: two tasks that did not seem to come easily for her. I wondered if there was a list of conversation questions in the back room to help out socially-awkward hairdressers. Maybe it changed on a routine basis. Maybe today the list was:
Are you done with your Christmas shopping?
How was your Thanksgiving?
Do you have children to buy for?
Are you going anywhere for the holidays?
She had already used up two of her questions and failed to engage me in a conversation. I felt like maybe I should help her out, so I babbled a bit about Christmas shopping until she was done, which, to be honest, took less than ten minutes. It was the quickest haircut I’ve ever received.
What I babbled to her about was this: I like Christmas shopping because it puts me in the holiday spirit and makes me feel like a magical elf spreading Christmas cheer to my friends and family. But other people treat it like a burden, and they act so relieved when they’ve finished it. I like to go to stores and window shop, just to see if anything jumps out at me as the perfect gift for someone. I try not to get stressed out about it – it’s supposed to be fun.
I’m always thinking that when I publish a novel I will feel relieved. I will finally have an accomplishment that will “prove” that I am a “real” writer. I will be able to relax and stop worrying so much about what I’m doing with my life and what other people think about what I’m doing with my life.
But then I think about what Sergey said. When I get a novel published, I will still have more to do. I will want to write another book – a better one. And after that, an even better one. Getting a novel published won’t be the end of the journey; it will just another step in my life.
I can’t start treating writing like a burden that I just want to be done with. I need to remember to enjoy the magic of it instead of rushing through it like an awkward ten minute haircut.
There’s no need to get stressed out, you know. I’m going to be a writer ’til I die.