Monday, February 21, 2011

Metaphorical mexican food

I was chatting with a customer today, while he sat for his morning routine of reading the paper with a cup of black coffee and a doughnut. He told me some stories from his younger days, working for a newspaper, how he missed the excitment and livelihood of the job. He very sweetly asked if this was my first job, or perhaps was I fresh out of school? I laughed, opting to take that as a compliment of my youthfulness, and shook my head. "Nope, not at all. Actually, I have a Master's in counseling."

His eyebrow raised and he looked full of curiosity, so I launched into the five sentence version of my story, of why I am where I am. He said he hoped I would not be here much longer, that I would be back in my field. I thanked him and said, "Well, I want to pursue writing. Right now, this job allows me to do that." We chatted a bit more and he wished me luck. It was my first of two conversations today with customers about my desire to grow and develop as a writer, my hopes of pursuing publication someday. The more I talk about it, the more real it seems on one hand, and the more ambiguous it seems on the other.

I don't have any projects I'm currently working on, for one. I know nonfiction is my focal point, but that's like stating you want to cook Mexican food for dinner, and that's it. But do you want tamales or taquitos, enchiladas or sopes, carne asada or quesadillas, ensalada de nopales or chilequiles? What about salsa, pico de gallo or guacamole - or all of the above? I love personal narratives, redemptive stories, writings about grief, and memoirs. Great. But do I write about myself or someone else? Do I tell the story of how I've walked through the grief of losing my Papa? If so, do I focus on his life as a whole, or on specific memories I have of him, or things I learned from him, or characteristics I loved about him, or how losing him so unexpectedly and tragically has impacted every area of my life?

Do I find someone else who would like their story told? Where do I find these stories? Do I travel someplace and tell a story that draws awareness to an important social issue that has impacted the lives of people in that place? Or do I focus on short stories, topical things, that I can submit to journals or magazines or collections of some sort? If only I knew what I wanted beyond Mexican food, it would be so helpful. I suppose that will come with time, but for the moment, all I know is to continue posting on this blog every day. And I sincerely hope and pray I'll have the courage necessary to take that next big step, to risk in a big way, when I have an idea what I should be aiming for. There's a lot of truth in the saying that if you aim for nothing you'll hit nothing, but it's hard to aim for something when the target is so blurry. Thankfully I'm not nearly as impatient as I used to be. Things tend to come into focus at the right time, learning how to be productive in the waiting room is a discipline all its own.

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