Monday, April 2, 2007

The Old Daunt

For those of you with geo-trackers on your websites, you might know my secret already: Charlottesville, page refreshed 298 times. I'm a little bit obsessive about checking for updates on other people's blogs, particularly when I'm trying to avoid doing some work of my own.

What I'm saying here is that, okay, I like to watch. Participating--in terms of leaving comments, responding to comments, having the online conversations--isn't my forte.

A week or so ago, Heather Annastasia (who makes me wish I had a deeper knowledge base so I could debate her on certain subjects) left a comment about dauntingness. I sat in front of the monitor for twenty minutes, trying to think of something to say in response. Because the whole concept of something being daunting seems pretty integral to a quest for happiness. Or at least a good reason why someone might pick up a self-help guide in the first place.

I rewrote the beginning of the introduction to the book many, many times. How many times? So many that I have a whole folder of anecdotes that didn't work. The thing about Caleb and the urinating turtle. The thing about Oprah. The thing that two out of three readers agree makes me seem like an alcoholic. And more! (Maybe I should package them into a book: Story Starters for Grown-Ups. Or: Beginnings for Those Who'd Rather Not Commit to a Whole Book. Or: The Corner and How to Write Yourself into It.)

Anyway, I think I had a hard time with the beginning because I find it very daunting to explain exactly what my motivations are. Why did I want to become a better, happier person? Because I just did, okay? And because...doesn't everybody?

Maybe there're people out there who have good answers for their motivations, who think things through to the very end of reasoning before they do them. Me, if I do that, I'll certainly choke. The buying of a house, the launching of the magazine, the getting of the pregnant ... all decided over a few beers. The big picture is more often than not scary to me. I don't want to see the gazillions of ways things could go wrong because, frankly, I don't need that kind of pressure.

I think most of us get over the dauntingness factor by focusing on the things we know how to do. I'd never, say, raised I child. But I could cook; I could change a diaper; my pets were still alive. And this squares with one expert I used, who suggests that we all focus on our strengths, not worry so much about our flaws. It seems like some sound advice to me.
I know. You've been hankering for more blatant self-promotion, haven't you? Well, here you go: Yesterday, the editors at the Washington Post's Book World listed Practically Perfect as one of the most anticipated non-fiction books of the season.

Did you ever get so excited you get all shaky and weird and possibly frighten your child? (WATCH OUT, MAMA'S GETTING FREAKY!) Me, too.


BarbaraCA said...

Ooh! They used the word "Anticipation" in bold! My mouth is watering with unmitigated jealousy and also maybe a need for nachos.

Jennifer said...

Hey, that's a good one!

Revenge: served cold.
Jealousy: served best with nachos.

Heather Annastasia said...

Debate? That would be awesome. You're my hero.

I love debating, but you can't mind me. I like to ruffle people's feathers and keep them on their toes.

I'm perfectly personable, though. Honest.

It's funny what you said about getting so excited you scare your child. I just did that the other day when I got called for a coveted job interview. I never get excited about anything, so he was quite taken aback.

That's great about your book!

Jennifer said...

Heather, I like the people who can carry on a reasonable debate. I saw this talk at the Virginia Festival of the Book last year in which Hendrik Hertzberg and the conservative Adrian Wooldridge had a great poltical debate--I think because neither one of them are insane. (The guy who set it up actually said that's why he chose them, he wanted people who weren't "crazy liberal" and "crazy conservative.") Anyway, I digress.

So, the interview went well?

Heather Annastasia said...

The interview went absolutely fabulous.

They wanted to know when I could start and even talked about other media outlets the company owned for which they would eventually need an internet content producer (writer).

Then they ran a credit check.

My husband and I had a bankruptcy a few years back. The triplets (one didn't make it) started a snowballing of medical bills that we just couldn't manage.

Rather than talk to me about it, the company ignored my follow-up attempts and sent me a copy of the credit check.

Oh well, I have another interview on Friday.

Talk about daunting!

Heather Annastasia said...

Thanks for asking, by the way.


Jennifer said...

I'm so sorry that you went through all of that, Heather. And then to have it haunt you on a job search, of all things. (When the hell did employers start doing credit checks? That's just wrong.)

Break a leg on Friday!

Heather Annastasia said...


They tell you when you file that it could affect your future employment prospects, but I thought, "Well I'm never going to be a banker or anything."