I've always loved symbolism in literature. Foreshadowing is great but what makes reading great authors transcendent (above let's say, internet click bait content generators) is symbolism. The Art of Analogy can demonstrate how effective your own imagination really is. Metaphor, simile, all that stuff we learned in high school. For me it was the only thing that made school tolerable. It sure wasn't gym class. It was lunch hour comedy hour with the Jewish boys and finding hidden meaning in Shakespeare. The subtext IS the message. Ohhhh, I get it. One of the few things I discovered as a teen that had nothing to do with the terrifying plunge into nudity and birth control that was hormonal development. Which, looking back, I acknowledge was a tragic pre-occupation and an overrated pursuit.
Anyway, where am I going? I'm not sure but stay with me. I haven't blogged for a year---it happens sometimes. My mom died last October and I left my home to inhabit hers in Florida, to clear, sell, heal, cry a lot and contemplate my status as an orphan at 49. I was burned out on writing anyway. It may help those who never write to start journaling after a deep loss, but it's not my thing. As a chef, people would ask me what I was doing for Thanksgiving. Sitting on my can and ordering a pizza I guess. Certainly not COOKING.
Early adopters are often early denouncers---I find myself bristling at the moniker even. Blog. Frog. Slog. Bog. Sog. No good comes out of that name. And everyone has a blog. Even terrible writers and people who think Strunk & White is a law firm. But WHAT DOES THAT MATTER?? These are excuses for sure. You don't have to BE a writer. You can just write some stories. Whatever. And then I'll get messages from a few people who say, Where Can I Read More of Your Writing?
And what writer doesn't want to hear that? We all do. A TON. We want nothing else really. A book deal would be nice (we think) but the reality of traveling around the world and staying in motor lodges away from home and pets and eating weird food in Akron for example puts me off the trail. There's a voice in me that says,' oh please you're no David Sedaris...' and well, that voice is an asshole.
Okay, fine. I know that's a slippery slope and there's a lot of gray area to cover before I go on worrying about the luggage I'm going to carry for the book tour to satisfy my demanding Publisher that I've dug up from the 90s. It's 2017 almost and there's a 12 year old dressing her cat up in fairy dresses on Instagram who's not afraid to tell a story, it's a whole new world out there in publishing. And just because it seems like everyone is doing it...I don't have to not do the thing I've loved to do since I was a kid. It's not like I'm finally coming round to Pokeman.
BUT first I gotta write the thing. (there's another voice in my head who is more supportive)
And get out of your head of how you were going to treat this career. What do you know anymore? Self publishing used to be a joke. But those days are over. Suck it Random House. (Unless they call, I'll be right over) I've been writing and getting published since 1990. Some regional, some national. It's cool and then you start flogging (ha! another blog rhyme) yourself again for what's next. I have a terrible habit of never building on my previous goals, successes or mistakes. I just change horses midstream and open a restaurant, move to the woods and raise chickens or go dark. And people say, You Should Write a Book! And I say, er, I have. Twice. But that was a long time ago. (find them here) maybe that's a lack of follow through. Fear of rejection on a grand scale. Or taking yourself too seriously. Just write the stories. Some will read, some will not. And you'll write some more. Or go cook some dog cookies.
And that's where Hare Brained comes in. I didn't name myself that. A friend did. I'm sure she didn't think it would stick or that I'd take it to heart---she may not even remember that she blurted out something so caustic (at the time) but we were 'spit balling' (another term I'm less than eager about) around ideas for a logo and concept for a cafe I had seen and was keen to take over in the mountain town five years ago.
I love the concept part, oh boy, the color choosing and the branding and the menu development and naming things and visualizing the lanterns I'll hang from the ceiling and the soundtrack and how fun it will all be and how happy the town's people will be to have this culinary treasure. "Big City Chef moves to Mayberry and delights residents with amazing food they've never heard of...!" (they'd rather have a Sonic)
But then the landlord wouldn't come clean about why the electric bill had 3 antique stores attached to it and why the elec panel wasn't up to code. The town's people were ruled by a born again alcoholic who wouldn't allow wine to be sold in the town, because of Jesus or whatever and as a 10 year veteran of bar/resto ownership I know that you can't make any money if you don't sell hooch. A few people had told me, 'Ya know what we need? A good chicken wrap for under $5" and my dreams were snuffed. So within a day or two my instinct said
THIS IS NOT YOUR NEXT CHAPTER
And I called it off.
The spit balling friend said, 'Oh, I thought you were going to go through with this, but this is just another one of your hare brained ideas.'
How many of these hare brained ideas had she cataloged? I kind of thought I was the Queen of Follow Through. There was the ad agency I started out of a warehouse I was living in. There was the move to NY for an ad job that I rolled into a travel writing gig for a national magazine. There was the underground restaurant I started at 29 in a house in Atlanta that I rolled into a critically acclaimed decade of fine dining and a second cantina that is still open to this day (I sold it to a guy) and still going strong. In between there are 42 other ideas that I didn't do or that failed.
Admittedly once I drove off the shoulder of Success and Unbridled Ambition (because I wanted my life back, the nerve!) and went to the mountains to raise chickens and hug trees everyone was disappointed in me. Nooo, but we love those places! You can't close!
We do that to people who entertain us you know. We think the well will never run dry. And we think money is the answer. We want Robin Williams to make funny all the time and demand answers to why he was so tragically and morbidly depressed...but why?...that he would kill himself. But he was so funny! (answer: to be that comedic you often have intimacy with the Dark Side and funny doesn't equal happy) we want beloved authors to churn out amazing book after amazing book. What a spot to be in for the incredible lauded voice of a generation, Liz Gilbert after Eat, Pray, Love. Oh and we're making a movie out of it and it's going to star Julia Roberts. hahahahahah.
Really? Oh my god.
What will you do next?
Gulp. No forking clue.
The always graceful and eloquent Gilbert writes about that pressure of creativity and follow up and admits that the best thing was writing the next book which was a sorta flop compared to EPLove. Sometimes you have to lower your own bar. You'll do amazing things again. Her book Big Magic is a bible of inspiration to me. I can see having that on the nightstand for the rest of time.
My mom used to tell me to slow down as a kid. "What are you going to do for an encore?" She'd say. Like there was a finite number of things allotted. She maybe thought there were. I probably believed her too for a time. I know now there are not. This is just a continuum of things we can do and experiment and try and fail and succeed and dip our toe in the water or decide not to. Until I have a pet dolphin who lives in the Caribbean and visits me every morning on my private island and we go swimming together? I'm not done.
So Hare Brained is a reminder to me and to all of you to try whatever the HELL EXCITES YOU right now. It may change and THAT'S OKAY TOO. You can pull up stakes when you want, admit defeat, not go down with the ship, abort mission and regroup if it gets weird or burdensome with little reward (raising poultry for example) or tear up a lease agreement on a business deal---- that because of your wisdom, guidance and experience isn't the right thing right now, or shut down a renovation project before it bankrupts you. You can end friendships and you can get a divorce. You can become a vegan or you can try the fish.
And you can pick up on your BLOG again after a year.
I don't ever want to stifle myself. I have a lot of ideas. They aren't all feasible at the moment, or prudent, or even that GREAT. Sometimes you need to light the match just to let it fire up for a little while. It's fun to create and imagine. It's not always a 4 alarm fire. Oh and since I started telling the story of symbolism here I'll wrap with this... The cafe that I didn't start in the mountains? The one with the shady landlord and the electric panel? It became someone else's dream and sadly, a couple years later burned to the ground and they lost everything. FROM AN ELECTRICAL FIRE.
So give your inner Hare and its brain a big hug. You know more than you think.