Write What You (Don’t) Know

I distinctly remember the word problems in my High School physics class asking me, “If Trent wants to push a box…” so that I might determine how much force he’d need to get the damn thing moving.

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Lo, and behold! It’s that same static energy that holds us down, holds us back, holds us in place. But what does that look like in real life? Because I’m not a box, and there is no Trent (that I’ve met) to push me. I’m inclined to say ‘lack of time’ but the tracker on my phone says I find at least 3 hours a day to stare at it. Is it insecurity? Fear of failure? Lack of interest in a project (can we admit this to ourselves or anyone else)?

What’s kept me from moving?

There’s been a fog that descended over me during my end-of-pregnancy and post-partum window (literally all of 2021). I published my first novel at 7 months pregnant with my second child. In the middle of a pandemic. During an era of divisive politics, oversaturated markets, and a massive wave of resignations. At work, my organization was ‘evolving’ and I was going to return from maternity to a different team and a new supervisor.

To say that the joy and excitement of seeing my book in Barnes & Noble’s catalog was dampened a little, would be an understatement. I’m prone to mitigating my expectations, so I didn’t anticipate fanfare (I actually thought it would be wildly reviled, which, thankfully, was not the case), but I don’t think *I* processed the joy of it. Or maybe I used it to take the edge off some of the stress, who knows? But I’ve been only loosely doodling in notebooks for months now, scribbling out an idea here and a quote there, totally uninterested in diving headfirst back into a world so rife with stress that it failed to alleviate me from my own. My capacity for self-promotion dropped, especially as I struggled to regain a sense of self (and therefore self-confidence) in my early post-partum months. I was trying to learn new tools, new skills, and new ways of thinking at my day job, while failing to master the art of giving each of my now doubled children 100% of the attention I previously afforded my daughter when she was my only. Drowning in joy and opportunity and excitement, I wasn’t able to breathe.

And marketing a book is no small feat, even if you have a publisher behind you. Podcasts and book tours and interviews all have to be booked. A Wikipedia page requires mention in reputable publications (online, audio, or in print). That little verified check on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook means you’ve got at least 3 recent articles of the same caliber to constitute your status as a public figure.*

I was exhausted just thinking about it. And the exhaustion led me to exactly where it was meant to: the drawing board. Literally. During this time, I made all of these designs and then some:

Know what I didn’t do? Write those books everyone was waiting on. I just… couldn’t find it. I was terrified that it was gone for good. That Wild Things Will Roam was a fluke; not a result of years of work or effort, but a glitch in my matrix.

But I had forgotten the way these stories came to me to begin with. Shifting weight, I took a small idea offered from a friend when I first started this journey (“What if Liv was Filipina, like you?”) and thought, “What if we incorporate some of the fun Filipino myths?”

In this case, it’s not about writing what I know, but what I don’t.

Then, the stars aligned. Serendipity, coincidence, destiny, fate, God, and the Devil seem to have conspired at every turn to give me just a small push forward–an idea here, a myth there, a coincidence too good to be ignored…. and all of a sudden, the pieces are falling back into place. Every idea I’ve had surrounding these next two books (Broken Things We Called Love, the prequel, and Run, You Hunted Things, the sequel) has turned out to be the immature groundwork necessary to support these new revelations. I am growing as a human, not just as a writer. And just like that, the words are back.

I’ve said often that you can’t write a story until you become the person who can tell your story. Writer’s block is just an opportunity for development. But damn, it’s hard to sit still and wait for that development to come to fruition… Now, I can see what all of the wait was for. For me, these books have become a study into a culture and a sense of self that I have not previously explored. In this case, it’s not about writing what I know, but what I don’t.

I can’t wait to share them with you.

So all this to say, I know it’s hard. I know how mind-numbing the work can be, especially when the result seems very distant, hazy, or even so far away that you can’t even picture it yet. But opportunities sometimes show up at your door (in my case, literally; an entire box of devotionals showed up at my door by accident just before the new year), and the relationships you nourish may provide insight into what you need to hear to push you forward. To be your ‘Trent.’ To overcome that static energy.

Here’s to a new year for all of us, to good tidings and opportunities for healthy growth and reflection, to coping mechanisms that bring us peace. Here’s to overcoming whatever it is that’s holding us back. I’m rooting for us all.

*(P.S. If you know of anyone who writes for a newspaper or magazine, has a podcast, or keeps a blog who’d be interested in featuring me and my little book, message me! I’d be VERY grateful for the opportunity).

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