I’ve only been married for two weeks, and I’m not sure at what point you’re allowed to give advice on the key to a good marriage. But I figure if you’re married at all, you’re allowed to stand on the soapbox of this topic.
Therefore, the key to a good marriage is a good set of headphones.
Yesterday in a flurry of domestic activity, my husband and I cleaned the abode, did laundry and sorted out the remainder of the wedding stuff to be done. During this flurry of domestic activity, we could each be found wearing a nice set of headphones, listening to our distraction of choice. For my husband, it was watching TV on his iPad while he did dishes. For me, it was listening to chart toppers of the 30s and 40s on my iPod as I vacuumed. (Note: no where in this blog did I claim to be cool.) And it struck me as odd that at a moment when our extremely busy lives allowed us to be in the same room together for once, we were actually isolated. But at the same time, it did not bother me. We were happily going about the chores that needed to be done to satisfy my OCD beast with quiet flourish.
So what was wrong with wearing the headphones?
Headphones are essential for many reasons. I wear them at work to drone out the ruckus behind me when I need to concentrate. I wear them on airplanes when the sound of the cabin is making my motion sickness worse. I wear them while running, so when my legs just do not want to go any further and my mental trick of imagining a bear is chasing me stops working, I can blast Spice Girls and finish that last half mile. (See previous note about not being cool.) And headphones are also essential to writing.
It’s a different kind of headphones though. A writing teacher in college once lamented the fact that she saw students wearing headphones all around campus, listening to their iPods. She said it was like everyone had their own soundtrack to their life. There was a bit of truth in that, and I have since applied it to terrible writing sessions.
One of the worst things a writer can do is over self edit. When I’m reading through a manuscript that I’ve written, I think it’s the absolute worst thing I have ever read and put it on the shelf in the section labeled WRITTEN DIARRHEA. And that is when I put the headphones on and tune out to the soundtrack of my life. I just stop editing, and I just stop criticizing. There are people out there who are paid the big bucks to accurately diagnose WRITTEN DIARRHEA. It is not my job. My job is to create it, which I do with great success some times.
To give this headphone theory more support, take my current situation. I wrote my first novel in law school during civil procedure class. (The professor and I had an arrangement where as I thought his class was boring, and he agreed my writing was far more interesting and important.) It was a great first start, but the manuscript also doesn’t really fit anywhere in the romance world. I never even submitted it anywhere because it was such an oddity, but I did submit it to the biggest unpublished author contest in the US. And it was received with amazing remarks. So I thought, why not? Send it out there even if I thought it was a little weird.
I sent it to a big publishing house and waited.
For those of you intelligent people who stayed far away from the writing business, publishing is a really, really, really long journey with many parts of waiting involved. It is worse than peak season at Disney World. So I did my due diligence and continuously followed up with the editor and was always told that I would receive a response soon. And soon became 6 months, then 9, then a whole year was long gone, and I stopped caring.
And I got an email.
It was an email full of exclamation points and the word “love.” Except there was one problem. The piece just did not seem to fit in. So my internal judge was correct. The piece was a little odd. However, if I had not silenced my internal judge just enough to send that piece out, I would not be in the predicament that I am in now.
The editor wanted me to write another piece, contemporary, sassy and witty. She knows that my voice can do it, and she wants to see what I’ve got. My WRITTEN DIARRHEA has led to frantic late nights of writing in a genre that I’ve never attempted before and have no idea what I’m doing in, in order to seize this one chance that I may have at getting published.
So when you’re in the creative process never forget your headphones. You may miss an opportunity at ulcers, headaches, and lack of sleep.