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REKINDLING THE SPARK
THE WRITER'S WAY

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the writers way jen frankel REKINDLING THE SPARK
THE WRITER'S WAY

by Jen Frankel

No work makes Jen a sad girl

Sigmund Freud defined mental health as the ability to love, combined with the ability to work.

I've usually been pretty good at the first. The second?

Well, to be honest, that ability has been on a steady decline for a long time, and that's why I'm in a self-imposed exile right now, trying to reconnect with the second element that makes up my mental health.

Somewhere along the way, I think I lost most of my ability to do things for myself. I don't mean laundry and making dinner. Those things do happen, although I'm not adverse to a meal out or taking the dirty clothes back to Mom's.

But for a very long time now, I've really been focused on everything but what I want for myself. I've been pretty good at throwing my energy into everyone else's projects. Back in Stratford, I was a regular chauffeur, volunteer, and everyone's favorite last moment replacement employee.

From parrots to potatoes

I've held so many jobs over the years. It boggles me slightly to try to itemize them. Douglas Adams, author of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" once claimed a huge list of jobs including chicken coop builder, but I would say I could give him a run for his money.

And I don't precisely regret, for example, my time as a parrot breeder. I developed some great scene ideas while out in the barns (could that damn Macaw PLEASE stop singing two thirds of a major scale over and over?) Like I used to scribble poetry on scraps of napkin between chopping fifty pound bags of potatoes into fries for East Side Marios.

But the truth was, my heart was never in any of those jobs. In fact, no matter what else I was doing, I was working double shifts. On my own profession. Writing.

And it's bullshit what I was told, or at least what was suggested every time I was caught by a stranger, sitting with a glass of wine and a notebook at the bar of my favorite hangout. I couldn't be a journalist, or write movie reviews. Why would I possibly want to write for someone else, and then jump BACK on the computer to write for myself? That's a busman's holiday if I've ever heard of one.

Working for freedom's sake

So somewhere along the way I got kind of fucked up. Instead of working during office hours, or bar hours, to eke out a meagre living -- how could I do more when I didn't care what I did? -- and heading home or to a coffeeshop to write, instead of being focussed enough to save up my paycheques until I had enough to quit and do what I loved solely for a while, I fell way off the rails.

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I started to believe my own press, that careful impression I had worked so hard to instill in others, that I would do anything for anyone that asked, because I needed the money. Writing somewhere along the way stopped being a priority, because I was doing it in my hoarded secret moments, and those were being worn away by my inability to say no to anyone who held out the potential of enough money to get out of the game for a bit. And into the real game.

And then, I forgot the reason I was working, and started doing things just for the thanks.

It's a hackneyed phrase that writing is a lonely business. I bought the line, hook and sinker attached, and never considered that it was just that -- a line.

Leaving to come back better

So I've gone into exile, to reconnect with myself, and my own wants. I'm fortunate that I have a little latitude right now time-wise, and feel confident enough thanks to the support I have from my partner in the ultimate value of what I do to believe in the value of taking the time to put my head right.

It's only been a few days, but you wouldn't believe what's shaking loose.

I've been reading, a lot. I've discovered a ridiculous video game online called "Fish Tycoon" that I'm using as a metaphor to understand business growth -- finally I've got it straight that the reason I never would have survived in a place like business school is that they just don't use clever enough metaphors. I've finally discovered a literary use for my otherwise troubling fascination with serial killer psychology.

And, something that pleases and thrills me more than I can possibly express, given time and freedom and the conscious placement in my own head of a nagging little voice (courtesy of that self-same wonderful partner) which repeats over and over, "Do what you want!"

It seems so simple. I hope the days I have left in my little sojourn are enough to solidify this new preoccupation with my own preoccupations. Because it's working, and that means I am.

And that makes Jenny a good girl. Not to mention sane.

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REKINDLING THE SPARK