The Tiger and the Blueberry

My desire to finish writing my book is about equal to my desire to avoid finishing my book: The Hayley Cain Story. Or: What every author probably feels all the time but never says so.

Alternate subtitle: So This is Why Authors Drink!

How have two years passed since I started working on this stupid book thing? I've reached 50,000 words.

It's like this:

When my friend was insanely pregnant, she said she dropped a box of blueberries onto the kitchen floor. She said that, for some reason, this experience almost made her cry. Think about it. She's big and round and uncomfortable and crawling on the floor in search of all these blueberries. Some of these rascals have managed to find their way under the fridge. Some have exploded into putty. Some are in the hall. She's trying to corral all these berries, but they are round (like her) and they just keep moving in their own way. It just seems so pointless!

I actually think about this scene often. I know. it's weird.

I am the super pregnant friend. The finished book is the baby making me fat and uncomfortable and the blueberries are the words. For some reason, I need to collect all the blueberries and put them back in their neat little box before I can give birth.

There's this part of me that thinks it should be easy. This part of me is wrong, but convincing. I just don't want to admit that I'm a sprinter. I cannot go the distance without my nipples chafing. Once that happens, I start rebelling. I rebel against myself. I need to invest in a box of bandaids or just stretch more. I need to grow up.

I was so good, even up till January of this year. I was working on my book every week. Sitting in a coffee shop, alone, the day after Christmas, in bitter Berlin cold—I tapped on my keyboard. I did not feel artistic or productive, but I did it.

Writing this project feels like I have been given a punishment. And it is a punishment. When you're writing about your own life (mind you, extremely honestly), you're taking your own medicine. You're eating your own dog food. It tastes like shit. It's chemical cherry poison topped with kibbles and bits. You made it for yourself, and you get to eat it bite by bite.


Maybe it's the nature of therapy. As someone who has been to therapy, I can say that you have to go through a lot of pain to get ten percent better on the other end. Sometimes it's not worth it. Oftentimes, it is life saving. You never know if you're inching a little ways forward or making a break through. Sometimes it's just gas.

I am built for speed. I am a decade-long journalist who, up until just a few months ago, wrote a few published pieces every week. I didn't take any time to cry about putting that part of my life to bed. When I quit, I did not look back. I could have dove straight into “the book.” Instead, I went on tour, wrote a bunch of new songs, and recorded a new album.

If writing for a weekly paper is being in a punk band that practices a few times before cranking out an imperfect-yet-cool EP, writing a book is like joining the ranks of a bloated rock band circa 1967.

There's so many fucking tambourines, a cow bell, a choir of small children, ten different wood blocks, a sitar (for some reason) and, like, some guy trying to play the didgeridoo in the corner while high off his ass.

Some things feel easier than others. Why? Like the zine, this blog, my shoestring podcast—even the albums. They are joyful and natural. I don't lament over this stuff. I get it done. It is not linked to my identity in this intense way. It's not like the writing. The inching. The tedious growth. Why do we grow so slow? I have a typewriter tattooed on my arm. I got it when I was 17. I guess it was a reminder to write this book when I turned 30. Or 32. Or 72.

And the notebooks...the notebooks for basically every year of my life. They taunt me, but I am making friends with them. They went from a storage bin in the shed to my bedside table to my closet again. But they are there. They hold the key.

I am so in the weeds. I cannot say this enough. I may not seem like it, but I am. Every day, I am in the weeds.

Like, I am living and making a new home for myself in the weeds. That’s how it feels. Do you know the feeling?

My mind is jungle and I'm scared of the animals. But some nights are different. I wake up at 3 a.m. and have the whole paragraph in my mid. I can feel a shift in the atmosphere and a slight stirring in my mind.

It's like I have this piece of meat in my hand and I am waiting for the tiger to come out of the brush and just nibble from my palm.

Sure I am scared the tiger will kill me. It actually just might. But I would rather be devoured by a tiger than be ruled by blueberries forever.