Posts Tagged authenticity
I grab my jacket and my wallet and my cell phone and my room keycard and my Sportsband and I head out of the Clarion Hotel, down a hill or two, and walk for about a mile until I spot an old white building which is almost blocking traffic. It’s the old library here in Shepherdstown, West Virginia and as crazy as it sounds, the damn building was not so much built around the street as the street was built around it.
I peer into a window of an old red brick building and try to make sure that Hypnocoffee is open and it is, so I open one door, step into a vestibule, and open another door, which takes me into the best coffee shop I’ve ever visited. Maybe that doesn’t sound right; after all, this is a small town and a small shop that lacks name brand recognition, but it’s the truth and I swear it.
I’m on a working vacation with my husband. He’s working, that is. I’m supposed to be working too, but I’m a writer and I spend most of my time walking around and taking the sights in and trying to find stuff to write about. Travis is busy from eight to five. Anyway, this leaves me lots of time to search for stuff to write about and to me, that’s another way of saying that I’m going on an adventure.
Before we left, that fine man of mine spent hours researching coffeehouses in Shepherdstown. “Cutie, I just want to make sure you’re really comfortable,” he explained. He’s either really solicitous or I’m a pain in the ass when I travel, or it’s a combination of both. The truth is, he researches coffee as if he were the coffee version of an oenophile and I’m downright picky about what beans I drink.
There is a really popular coffee house here, called Lost Dog Café. Fortunately Travis warned me that there baristas were rude; their coffee, bland, so I didn’t take it personally when the young woman at the cash register tossed an empty cup at me when I ordered a large brew. She barely made eye contact, and I felt out of sorts and shy as I paused and looked around. Lost Dog is a cool place. It’s all funky, with lots of color, a kaleidoscopic array of chalk scrawled all over chalkboards, t-shirts and mugs for sale, and a directive to be artsy-cool or drink coffee somewhere else. That made me laugh because I’m making my living as a writer. I write real stuff. But looking at me, in my 41-year old mother of three very imperfect body, baggy jeans, running t-shirt and Brooks running shoes, well, no one would ever know that I’m a creative type. And that’s all right with me.
After all, it’s what you do, what you create, not how you look when you create it, that really matters.
And that brings me back to Hypnocoffee. They are first, and above all else, a coffee roastery. You won’t find any t-shirts in here, or fancy mugs, or poseur political slogans. And that’s okay with me. Because what you will find, or what I’ve found, is the best cuppa Joe I’ve ever quaffed.
“Woooo, Cutie. Check this out. They employ the pour-over approach.”
I glanced at my husband, barely paying attention. “Uh-huh.”
He shifted his iPad in his hand so that I can see it. “Look. Check it out.”
I nodded, and he showed me what looked like a giant hourglass, with a white paper filter filled with fresh-ground coffee and almost boiling water on top.
“They say this makes the best coffee, ever. It’s the latest thing, and it’s taking the coffee house by storm.”
“Mmm, nice,” I murmured, my eyes searching for the pages of my book.
“So you’re going to like, no, love this place.”
And you know what? From the moment the coffee hit the roof of my mouth yesterday, I loved the dark brew and the place that brewed it.
The barista is a young guy, and yeah, I’ve reached the age where all creatures under thirty are young guys. Getting old can be a bitch, you know? This young guy wears a bow tie and his eyes twinkle when he talks, especially about coffee. “Yeah, you’re going to love the pour-over,” he predicts, with a smile that starts near his eyes. “It blows the doors off French Press coffee. And I know French Press coffee,” he adds, in response to my own benchmark for comparing coffee brewing methods. “I used to work at a place where we made coffee out of these industrial size French Presses.”
I take a sip and smile, again feeling shy. It’s hard for me to know what to say to people, so I usually stop trying to figure it all out and just tell the truth. “It’s awesome. Great coffee.” I tip my 12-ounce white cup at him and smile, crossing the small shop in about seven steps before I reach the inner door.
That was yesterday. It’s Tuesday, and I’m back again. It’s my kind of place. As Hemingway would say, it’s a clean, well-lit place, and I’m comfortable here. I’ve met Tony, the owner, and he’s a runner and a father and a busy man who, like me, is doing what he loves, loving what he’s doing, and doing it pretty damn well.
I’m thinking too much, too fast, too much, too fast. Damnit. What if it’s a really really bad idea to self-publish Ripple? Should I have kissed many more asses? Why didn’t I kiss more asses? Who do I ask to do my advance reviews? Is it any good? I know it’s good. But there are millions of would-be writers out there. Am I just like the rest of them? Am I really a loser? A wanna-be, would be, could be but can never will never be?
Should I go back and try to be nice to the people I’ve been ignoring? What about all of the pages that I’ve not been talking to because I’m talking to other pages and writers? Should I be trying harder? Should I be on my knees groveling, or at least gladhanding? I have stopped interacting with so many pages and blogs and it’s all a kaleidoscopic mishmash of should-dos and can’t and won’ts and I have no fucking clue how to sort it all out. Why do I have to be the one to handle this?
The real question is why do I need to be the adult here? I don’t feel like an adult. I don’t feel like I’m in control. Not I. Or not me, depending on how the rest of the sentence goes . . . no. Not I. Funny. I never really studied grammar that much or even wanted to learn it. I was above the rules but the real truth is that I always sensed, nay feared, that the rules were above me.
There. That’s the truth. Icky ugly truth. I play this whole act, this “Your rules not mine” rebel act long and hard but you know what I’m hiding? This deep fear that if I play by the same rules, throw the football on the same exact field with the precise dimensions and markings that all other writers obey, everyone will find out (who is everyone) that my writing just isn’t good enough.
That’s my icky ugly inner fear. It’s fucking debilitating. Should I stop cussing? Just an aside, but is it? Last night I made this poster, and I consciously went with the word “ass” as in “work your ass off,” because it was authentic. But I also know that a lot of my inspirational friends won’t share anything that has a cuss word in it, and while 10,820 fans is plenty, every new fan equals a potential reader. Then again, my freakin’ name has a curse word in it, so does that make me ineligible for being shared by the goody two-shoes of pages?
Not that there’s anything wrong with goody-goodies. Oh my gosh. Part of me wants to be a good girl and part of me wants to be a badass and those two sides of me will forever lay siege to one another! Right?
And should I put one space or two after a period? Am I the only old-school holdover who still goes with two spaces? I like two spaces, not one, but I don’t wanna stand out, stick out, or run alone.
Or do I?
As far as the cussing thing, my characters cuss, and so do I but I’m also a born-again Christian and I need those fans—the moral majority (giggle) too. I need as many fans and readers as I can get because hell, I’m trying to sell books, right? But what’s the point of selling anything if I have to change who I am to make a sale? How boring, stupid, phony, cruddy, pointless . . . is it to change who you are just to make a few extra bucks?
Speaking of a few bucks, what the hell am I doing self-publishing Ripple? Seriously, what the hell am I doing? Did I decide to ignore the traditional publishing houses for a reason other than I’ve been telling everyone? Was it simply because I was scared Ripple wasn’t good enough? Did I think that the rejection of everything that I am and want to be would be so awfully soul-crushing that I couldn’t chance it? God help me if I have to face the exact same pain that every other writer faces.
Yep. Maybe it always comes back to God. And needing His help. I’m scared, and I’m about to jump off a big limb that’s hanging over a muddy bank and into these swirling waters, and as much as I love crazy adventures and especially swirling waters, I’m so afraid that I’ll smash into unseen rocks and end up all bloodied and concussed and broken-hearted.
This is one of those times I wish I could call my mom. But I can’t and I won’t but I will . . .