"When I’m Small" - Phantogram
"Pink Rabbits" - The National
"Breakers" - Local Natives
Waiting for my words to catch like I’m trying
to strike a match that’s soaking wet.
A Procrastinator’s Guide to Creative Writing: 8 Tips on How to Get a Move on When Waiting for Your Writing
Procrastination is one of a writer’s worst enemies just behind (because it came in late) distraction, second-guessing, a persistent text messaging friend, when Netflix decides to finally add the new season of your favorite TV show’s episodes you’ve been waiting on for months, seeing what Grumpy Cat is bashing today, a chocolate craving, and a myriad of other postponers.
Whether it’s your plot that’s holding you back, or your main character’s backstory you have been avoiding, this list may be able to help. No, no, read it now. Not later.
1. Figure out what your issue is, and be open to solving it.
Why is writing so hard? Why do you procrastinate? These questions can have so many different answers. One may be the total fear that whatever you do write will be garbage. That’s an unfair fear because what comes out is most likely going to be garbage the first time. And the second time. Or however many times it takes before you feel that it is better. This is called being a writer. Writers must practice their craft just like a doctor practices grueling surgeries. Maybe fear isn’t your thing. Maybe it’s that you don’t think you have any good ideas for stories. Untrue. You are worthy of the title writer as long as you work on it. Figure out what’s holding you back and address it head on. You may not be able to solve the problem immediately, but knowing what that problem is will open the door for you to move forward.
2. If you’re just beginning, don’t have a “writing time” set in stone.
This may seem like backward advice. Don’t you need to discipline yourself to spend time each day writing if you want to get anything done? Absolutely. But imposing on yourself a set time in which you must force the creative juices to flow isn’t the way to do it.
Setting a definite writing time might make you feel pressured to be wonderfully impressive right now, and you may find this to be a reason to run scared from your computer. This may seem silly, but it is a reality for many writers. If you can set a goal for a certain time each day and hold yourself to it then stick with it. That is an accomplishment in and of itself. On the other hand, if you find yourself experiencing the shame spiral that comes when blowing off your goals proves to be too much, and your writing begins to suffer for longer periods of time as you try to cope with feeling like a failure, you are not alone.
It’s beneficial to aim to write each day. All writers should have this goal. But don’t think that because you didn’t spit out 10 pages before lunch that your day is blown. Write when you can. Write when you feel creative. After allowing yourself this valuable freedom, you should begin to see less pressure in your daily writing, and you may find it quickly becoming easier to accomplish each day without need for strict schedules.
3. Create a soundtrack.
If you’re a music lover, maybe push this tip up to the number one spot. Consider creating a playlist specifically with your creative writing in mind. Don’t worry about looking silly when you tack on “Official Soundtrack” to the playlist’s name. This is an especially beneficial idea if you want your writing to become a movie one day.
Even if you’re not interested in seeing your work on the big screen, music can help set the tone for what you’re writing. A sensual scene can benefit from some Ed Sheeran, Lana Del Rey, TV On The Radio, and Alt-J. If your characters are feeling quirky, consider an old classic from The Clash or The Perishers. When action is building and things are getting suspenseful, see what the bands Tool or Purity Ring can do for you. Find songs that create emotional responses within yourself, and use that emotion to drive your writing.
4. Surround yourself with writers.
Having fellow writer friends may seem frustrating at times. If you have some, you may find yourself listening to what they are currently working on, and those writers will, no doubt, be moving forward on about ten different projects each when you have hit a lull. This can be beneficial for several reasons. Writers are competitive, and they need other writers in their lives to pull them along when the writing well runs dry. Writers benefit greatly from having other writers to talk to. To find encouragement from. Sometimes it will be your writer friends that drive you insane the most with their critiques or suggestions. That’s what they are there for. If you don’t have any writer friends add finding some to the list.
5. Make your writing available to others.
No, you don’t need to wait until everything is done. Bits and pieces shared with friends, family, Facebook, Twitter, or anywhere on the blogosphere can be amazing sources of inspiration. Just be aware of who you are sharing your work with. You don’t even have to share full stories, poems, whatever. Just write something that means anything to you, and let others see it. Definitely start a blog. Show others what you’re passionate about. You get yourself out there and continue to improve your writing skills by keeping them in use every day. It’s a two for one.
6. Submerge yourself in what interests you.
Read the styles that you want to write. Watch the kinds of movies or TV shows that captivate you because they are amazing motivators as well. Okay, so most motivating lists will tell you this and for good reason. Don’t read the classics if you’re not interested in them. Don’t read what everyone else is reading if the content doesn’t interest you. Search until you find a story, a style of writing, that grabs your heart and squeezes it until you have absolutely no choice but to take to the blank page. Find something that makes you say to yourself, “I have to be able to make someone else feel the way I do right now. I just have to.” Whatever grabs your attention, let it. Use it to motivate you to do the same for others.
7. Be proud of even the tiniest step forward.
Came up with a name for your main character? Awesome. Stared at the screen for an hour and wrote a paragraph? Fantastic. No, this isn’t sarcasm. It doesn’t matter how little you think you actually produced in a day. Every step forward is important. Stories, both fiction and nonfiction, poetry, anything—they are all made of tiny stepping stones, and without one to connect to the other, our writing falls flat. Celebrate. Every. Single. Word.
8. Don’t sweat the setbacks.
Most the time that’s not what they are anyway. Maybe you have experienced this: You wrote 20 pages over some amount of time, read it all at once and found gaps in logic, inconsistencies, and what you have deemed is total crap that no one would want to read. So what? You wrote it. You’re a writer. Ideas and stories evolve over time and over drafts. You may think to yourself, “Oh, four-letter-word. I’m going to have to write all of this again. It’s just no good.” Go ahead and do it without fear. Make edits. You will see plot, characterization, and action that you didn’t see before. You just have to be open to it. Setbacks make beautiful stories, so don’t let them scare you away from your own writing. Did you decide the name that took you all day to create for your main character was completely awful? No problem.You will make it better.
Let’s face it, writing can be tough. You may try to make your writing perfect the first go-round. You may set lofty goals. Then you Ping-Pong—This is good! This is absolutely embarrassing. Who would read this? And on it goes. But it’s such an amazing, almost impossible to put into words (err—that could be a problem) feeling when you get something down on the page and are able to stand back and look at what you have created. If you find yourself in a situation where procrastination seems to be your only friend, consider what you’ve read here on this list. Be patient with yourself, and don’t get discouraged. Your writing will be worth the wait.
When I was a little girl I was a famous writer. I was a big time Hollywood actress, a magician, a veterinarian, and Mariah Carey. The Mariah Carey. I loved stories—writing them, starring in them in theatrical productions that my friends and I would act out in front of our families on the weekends. I didn’t plan on growing up to be a novelist then. Writing was just something I did because it made me feel the power and satisfaction that only writing and creating can.
When I would sit down to write a story my mind would explode with images and plots, speeding out of control so my hand, see I didn’t know how to type at that age, never stood a chance at keeping up with the pace. The race would continue for hours as my brain kept throwing idea after idea out in the open while my hand scribbled furiously just trying to write it all down, to make it concrete, to just get it as far out of my own head as possible.
It was almost a maddening process but when those ideas were finally out and down on the page—there was nothing like it. I was never too young to feel that rush, that high almost, that creating a story you are proud of could give. This writing-with-ferocity style has translated to my adult life as one that’s very similar, just with a touch more anxiety sprinkled in. I find it sometimes harder to fully enjoy, but I wouldn’t give it up for anything.
Now, at least.
When I left childhood behind and entered my teens, I must have forgotten to bring my passion for writing along with me. Though I actually did still write. My silly or serious creative works about enchanted toy stores, ghosts of twin girls who died in a house fire, and magical green Easter eggs were replaced with diaries full of catty remarks about the teenage condition.
I still read books. I still followed the adventures of Harry Potter. But as for my writing, you could say it was my literary Dark Age. I was uninspired and let my imagination spend its time piecing together whatever outfit would give me the right “look” for my personality, what tattoos I wanted to get as soon as I turned 18, what hairstyle would make people want to have what I have, though, according to those diaries, I would become irate if people actually went out and got it.
I was just a high school teen. Sometimes I missed being a kid—not old enough to date or to have a driver’s license. The backyard was my playground, my theater. My notebooks were where I lived in my own fantasy worlds where everything was possible. Even though I momentarily left my writing world behind, it never left me. It just waited patiently for my return. Which I did.
After a failed attempt at pursuing a psychology degree at Auburn University—failed because I began to analyze everything and everyone, including myself, to such a degree that it began to drive me crazy and I decided I couldn’t do that for the rest of my life—I moved on to journalism. I remembered that childhood passion, and I decided that I wanted to write again. Journalism treated me well for some time, and I learned some useful skills, especially for my creative nonfiction pieces. I wasn’t allowed to be as creative as I wanted to be in that major, however, having to stick mostly to writing news stories, so I ultimately decided to leave it. That’s how I landed in the creative writing major, and I haven’t looked back since.
In the past several years I’ve learned a lot about myself. I got to know myself as a writer again, and through that, oddly enough, as a person again. I’ve developed my voice. I’ve discovered my style of writing. I’m aware that both of those things will continue to grow and change as I grow and change, and I’m okay with that. I think accepting that—as opposed to what I’ve done in the past, just trying to shove myself in some mold I desperately wanted to fit in—is another way I’ve grown as a writer.
I’ve got a long way to go. I don’t think learning and bettering your craft is a process that has an end, no matter what the craft is. I have to say I’m greatly looking forward to the future that is waiting for me outside of the University’s walls. The years I’ve spent inside them have taught me how to be me as a writer and how to be ready for whatever comes my way.
For me, I had it right when I was a kid. I want to be a novelist, a storyteller. I want to create worlds for people to explore, to play in, swim in, become completely submerged in. I want to create life on the page. Characters to fall in love with. Characters to hate. I want to give others the same chills and happiness and fear and attachment that I felt while getting to know Harry, Ron, and Hermione, or when I was learning just who the Wicked Witch of the West really is deep down inside in the novel Wicked by Gregory Maguire.
I know it’s a hard road, a dreamer’s career I’ve heard it called. I’ve always been one of those anyway, so why go running scared? I would love to write short stories and novellas. I would love to have my own column in a newspaper or magazine. I would love to be a screenwriter, a poet, a lyricist.
I am a writer. I’m ready for the rest of the world to know.
Each story and poem in this portfolio was inspired by my real life, as crazy and ass backwards as it can be at times. I’ve included stories about my hometown, how it’s grown, and how I’ve grown right along with it, and about the April 27 tornado outbreak that nearly tore the both of us down completely. A story about my dog and how eerily human she is. Fiction pieces about wedding madness and dark taverns where odd occurrences and unique romances flourish. A poem about my little family just spending time in the woods—a favorite memory.
This portfolio contains my time, my heart, and my love.
[Author’s Note: This is another story I wrote for my Fiction II class. I had been been planning a wedding for the past year, and I felt like I needed to get some bride-to-be energy out on paper by writing a story about a girl who finds herself in a job as a bridal assistant at a wedding venue that is the same place where her wedding was supposed to take place. Due to unforeseen events that isn’t going to happen, and this story is about how awkward a previously applied for job can be when it comes calling at an ironic time in someone’s life. There’s some nervous humor, a little heartbreak, and acceptance in this story. I enjoyed writing about the crazy world of wedding details that I was submerged during that year.]
“Lindsey, what the hell am I doing here?” I say, my voice taking a turn up, revealing the dread I’d tried to ignore myself since the day I found out I got the job. Right now the dread was exploding into panic. I’ve never been good at change. Or first days. I sink down to the floor against the inside of the walk-in closet door on the second floor. “I mean, I was an English major for god’s sakes.”
“What are you doing? Where are you?” Lindsey’s voice comes so easily into my ear from the phone shaking against my face.
“I’m in the closet, dude. What the hell—I don’t even know anything about this. How did I get myself—”
“Get out of the closet, Amber. Amber, get out of the closet.” Lindsey says, and I know she’s smiling because she wants it to sound like she’s smiling, but I can tell she’s not kidding. This non-smiling smile is something my sister has perfected after years of being my voice of reason. It’s hard to believe she’s younger than I am. “You can beat this day,” she says, and adds something that sounds like you know plenty.
“I know nothing about this, Linds. I know nothing about real weddings, what it really takes to put one on, you know, to make it actually happen—” Everything I had just heard this morning comes crashing down into my head, falling out in pieces on the phone. “Debbie telling these personal anecdotes, horror stories, from back in the day to now about taffeta and how to go about diffusing a bridal bomb, and—and crinolines, and a thousand other things I know absolutely nothing about.”
The phone is silent for a second. “What the hell are crinolines?”
“What did I just say, Lindsey? I have absolutely no idea.”
I think about everything Debbie, my boss and head coordinator, said that morning as she talked to the entire team of Brentwood Gardens and Ballroom: potential problems we may encounter, how to talk to the bride, making sure to do everything, and she emphasized everything with a raised eyebrow, turning it more into a threat than a request, to make the bride happy. Then I’m pretty sure she just spit out a large list of supplies, fabrics, and other materials that I didn’t know existed. I nodded my head like an idiot, thinking, it’s your first day, don’t blow it.
“Amber, are you still in the closet?”
I look up to my right, and my nose is now just inside the sleeve of a suit jacket—possibly the groom’s. Do they not have their suits on? Am I responsible for that? I think of all six of the guys in the wedding party, standing there in nothing but little white undies and bow ties. I look down the tiny hallway of the closet and survey the gray suit jackets that hang, snugly together on the low rack as neighbors on one side of the hallway. I can only see enough to barely make out the colors of the suits from the light seeping in from the exceptionally large space underneath the door, but now I see that I’m alone with just the jackets, not entire suits. The rack on the other side holds more of the same, only in black.
“Yes, you are.” Lindsey says. “You know me better than I know myself, Linds,” I say, blowing the sleeve of the jacket closest to my face and watched it waver in my sarcasm. “Come get me, I can’t do this, I can’t do this, Lindsey, you gotta’ help me, Oh god—”
“Oh my god,” Lindsey says with her signature lean on the word oh before spitting out my god quickly and for emphasis on the subject at hand being related to complete stupidity or embarrassment. Her voice lowers to a forced whisper, as she quickly says, “Amber Rowell, so help me, if you don’t pull yourself together, get out of the floor and get your ass back to that tiny woman you call a boss and report for damn duty, I will come over there and soundly kick your ass.”
I can hear her smile through her drill sergeant routine, it’s all too familiar to me now, but I know she is right, and I know I have to move. I heard the door open downstairs over a minute ago. The bride and her party have arrived, and now it is my turn. My first day as part of the company of Brentwood Gardens and Ballroom wedding planning and event facility, “where we make your wedding dreams come true with you, for you.” I had drawn the proverbial short straw for today, for a first day in this field, a field that, I couldn’t let myself forget, was more of a desperate stab for a job than a career, as my bank account continued to dwindle in the months following graduation. I had applied for the job a month before I graduated as a backup, not expecting when I got the call to come in for an interview that my life would be so different. I am to be the lady-in-waiting of sorts, a “bridal assistant” Debbie said, and I have to get up and do it now.
My knees are stiff as I pull myself off the floor and turned to face the doorknob of the closet.
“Good girl,” Lindsey says when I tell her I am about to make my move.
“Okay, I’ll call you afterward,” I say, hushed and peeping out of the dark closet as I barely pull the door open, surveying the area for flying tulle grenades, and screeching bridesmaids, only to see none. Safe for now.
“Oh, and I just googled crinoline,” Lindsey says, finally, and she began to laugh again as she leaves me with, “You’re so screwed.”
I make my way down the stairs to the house’s ground floor, the sounds of the girls in the bridal suite floating up to me like a chilling symphony of glee and anticipation. My job description as bridal assistant ensures that I will have to encounter specific kinds of hell during this day such as having to run around alone observing everyone else’s experience and behavior, and be available for any and all errands as necessary. Today, Debbie tells me that I had to go above and beyond for the bride, staving off any potential fits the absence of a corkscrew, the annoyance of a spilled mimosa, an unexpected run in the inevitable cheap pair of pantyhose, or some other bridal disaster could unleash. The mayhem. I reach the final stair, and glance out the glass front door of the house, seeing the large red barn, the ceremony site, rising up from across the yard.
Well, honey, you’ve just never been good with weddings. My mom’s words swirl around in my head, as I turn from the front door and head for the bridal suite. When I told her about this job, and how I couldn’t ignore the ridiculous sense of impending doom I felt, she had said it made sense, and that I’d never been good with weddings, and after some moments of god-awful revelation, I had realized she was right. Not that those moments were necessary. I’ve been to six weddings in my entire life, almost seven, and each sticks in my memory like obnoxious thorns of embarrassment, jealousy, wardrobe malfunctions, and public arguments.I can’t remember what made me come and interview for this position, really. My paycheck dances back into view and then I remember. Here I am today. No, I’ve just never been good with weddings.
I take a turn to the left, heading to the end of the grandiose hall where they wait. I reach the door, staring for longer than necessary at the rustic brass knob, and the golden sign that tells me I am in the right place. Bridal Suite. I turn around to leave three times before going in.
“Hey girls, does anyone—” I start, in a voice so high and breathy and without even giving everyone a chance to see that I had come in. I’m not sure anyone could hear me, and then I see her. She had looked up at me from where she sat on the circular ivory couch placed in the middle of the room. The other girls are all over the place, one is yelling from the bathroom at a particularly pimply girl poking her face in front of the wall-sized mirror. Two others are helping each other zip up, while the fifth is rummaging through a bag in the back corner of the room yelling something about pantyhose. But not her. She is looking right at me.
“Does anyone need anything?” I ask again, peering at her expectantly, or, more likely, like an idiot. I can barely look at her there, in her white dress with its intricate, hand- crafted details that sparkle in her slightest movement. Her skin is tan, a golden color that adds even more to the glow of the dress. She is stunning, and she hurts my eyes.
“I think we’re okay right now, “ she says, smiling at me. She’s so calm.
“Okay,” I pause, not sure exactly what to do now. “Well it is your day, your way!” I say, before hauling ass back to the safe side of the door and into the hallway.
“Idiot,” I say to myself, walking as quickly as I can away from those girls, deciding I would check in with Debbie. “Well it is your day, your way!”
I spend the next two hours only slightly ducking into the bridal suite before finding a reason to turn right around on the spot, and head the other direction. I really want to escape this day without any more catch phrases, especially those made up on the spot and in front of god and everybody. One time I had gotten to the door, and hearing someone mumble the word “lemonade,” I scurried off, making sure not to return until I had some. The girls had looked surprised when I came in with a nice, tart pitcher, possibly realizing that I wasn’t actually in the room when she even mentioned the damn drink, but I overlooked it and tried to find something else to distract myself with just outside the door. I heard someone say something about a fruit plate before I was out of earshot of the girls, and didn’t return until half an hour later, spending as much time as I could arranging the perfect fruit tray to deliver back to the suite. When I returned with it they all burst into a fit of giggles. Except for her.
Getting ready time is almost over now, and I decide to make one last run into the suite to check on the girls. Before I leave the dining room, my newest hiding place, I catch sight of Debbie and some of the other staff outside, mingling with the few guests that were starting to arrive just in front of the barn before I leave the dining room located on the opposite end of the house as the bridal suite, and I know it’s close to time. I reach the door with the golden sign again, and step in, looking around the room. I decide the bride must be in the bathroom. One of the girls, the one with the long, curly hair speaks up first.
“Can you take this dress to be steamed? Someone said Debbie did them all upstairs somewhere,” she says, stepping forward with a golden-colored dress, for the mother of the bride or groom I would assume, handing it, or rather pushing into my hands. She spins around and abruptly walks back to the mirror, where the other girls are all seated now, putting the final touches on their faces.
I slowly creep, dress in hand, over to the mirror, and kneel down behind the girls, why, I don’t know, trying to be more personal I guess, and ask them if there was anything else I could do before they walk down the aisle. A chorus of no’s and thank you’s chirps out around me and, as I stand up, the tip of the hanger, dangerously close to the girls since I’m holding the dress horizontally now, slid sharply against the back of one of the girl’s dresses. This time, not the one with the long hair. There was no hair in the way to be a buffer for the tip and the delicate cotton that only took half a second to give a tiny, barely audible pop, as the tip made its way quickly into the threads, and back out just as easily.
“Ah,” the girl said, reflexively reaching her hand to the back of her dress where she felt the pin prick, but she can’t reach that far into the middle where I stuck her.
“I’m so sorry about that,” I said, tripping over large garment bags and shoe boxes while fighting to actually stand all the way up, in my Three Stooges worthy effort to get out of the room before anyone sees the hole. Oh my god, it was so huge, I wouldn’t be surprised if the whole dress just fell apart. I pace the hallway as the minuscule hole turns into a gaping abyss in the blue fabric I see in my mind. No, it was just a tiny hole. They didn’t see, I convince myself. Who are we kidding, I didn’t convince myself of anything, except the fact that I would be more apt in a monkey cage, and not as a zookeeper, than a refined setting such as this.
I can’t even think about what I’ve just done. And I didn’t even tell the girl I did it, that when I ran into her with the clothes hanger that I did, in fact, pick a hole in the back of her dress. I didn’t even tell her before I mumbled something about Debbie and cake stands, and tore through the doorway in search of an escape plan in case my crime was found out.
I reach the foyer, running now, up the stairs, staying there only enough time to pass off the golden dress, my weapon of choice, to Rhonda, a woman I’d seen with Debbie at the beginning of the day, but not for a second afterward. I hope she has the steamer.
I charge back down the stairs, continuing right down the hall to the garden exit door, passing a fully-dressed groomsman, no thanks to me, on my way. I push my hands several steps too soon, and as I reach the door, I throw all of my weight into it, half-falling outside into the fresh air. I fully intend to walk around to the barn, but just a second after I burst out of the house, and take a few steps I hear, “Hey, you okay?”
I had not seen anyone outside when I came through so her voice shocks me, and I turn around and see her sitting there at one of the outdoor reception tables, her beaded bodice sparkling in the sun and lighting up her eyes. She seems to glow from everywhere. The bride, the woman I am supposedly taking care of all day, but haven’t spoken to one time since this morning, was sitting here in front of me in her lace Oleg Cassini gown, feet propped on the chair beside her, drinking a beer.
My natural thought is to say that I’m fine and just turn around and keep walking. My other natural thought is to throw something over her head, scream, “Go! Go! Go!” like chief of security, and get her back inside before the guests see her, though that is nearly impossible as they are being funneled by Debbie into the seating area by the barn. I am lucky enough for that inappropriate option to dissolve before my mouth starts working again. She looks at me intensely as I just stare at her, and realizing I have said nothing, reply, “Oh, yeah I’m totally okay. Can I do anything for you?”
I’m totally okay. Can I do anything for you? Can you hit me hard enough in the head to knock me unconscious so I can forget about my own shame?
She laughs, and takes a sip, smacking her lips as she pulled the bottle down. “Here, I think you could use this,” she says, pulling up the bottom of the tablecloth to reveal a tiny white and red cooler that has space for six Heinekens in it. At this point there are four in the cooler, three after she hands one out to me, and I take a seat across from her at table number eleven. “I’ve seen you running around here like a crazy person today. They keep you busy I suppose toting and fetching for us girls.”
I hesitate, and think about how Debbie would tell me to handle this. “Ah. Yes, but it’s a great job, really. A real honor to be a part—”
“I bet you get tired of being told to kiss our asses,” she interrupts, and laughs, only stopping for a minute to take a sip of her beer. “You can be honest with me here. How bad does this suck for you? The girls must be killing you with the endless pantyhose trips, the lemonade, the hanger organizing, and, oh my god, that snack plate thing. Must be killing you.”
I almost ask her about that, that damn fruit plate, but her straight-forward approach to talking to a perfect stranger was a shock, and instead I laugh through my swallow of beer and, after recovering from the embarrassing strangulation, I say, “Yeah, I think we were all good until the snack plate.”
We both sit there and laugh together, slowly drinking our beers. She has a thoughtful look on her face, in this moment of quiet I am now extremely grateful for the bottle I have in my hand, otherwise I may not know what to do with myself. Every time she speaks, she looks like she is considering her words more carefully than I ever do.
“I’m Julie,” she says, extending her empty hand, the other one lifting the beer to her coral-colored lips.
Of course she is Julie. I had gotten hired in enough time to get my hands on one of their navy blue and silver wedding invitations, with a cluster of stars at the top of the rectangular sheet, made to look like the night sky, and underneath, their names sparkled in silver: Julie Pugh and Mason Ballard. I had looked at that invitation probably a hundred separate times, turning it this way and that, flipping it over and surveying it from each different angle. Nervous, bordering on terrified.
“Amber,” I say, taking her hand.
For some reason, I am only just now wondering why she is here, all alone. I can understand the need for it, but Amanda, Lauren, Lydia, Kimberly, and Stephanie, I try to remember their names from the event binder, don’t seem like the kind of girls that would let her go too easily. Not to mention the multitudes of others that had been in and out of the bridal suite all day seeing about her.
“How are you even out here by yourself?” I ask her.
“I told mom and the girls that I needed some time to myself and they will just have to respect that,” she says. “Or I might have actually pretended that I needed to have prayer and meditation time so that none of them would volunteer to come with me.” With that, she raises her beer and flashes a quick smile.
I look at her in her brown eyes, now mischievous with this added development of her sneakiness, and can’t help but admire the fact that she could at least con her way into getting some alone time with a little finesse, whereas I just run like a madman out of the bridal suite before anyone could catch on that I am to blame for that extra hole alteration I made in the blue fabric of Stephanie’s dress. Or was it Lauren?
She tells me that she hasn’t spent that much time with her girlfriends in the past several years, and that this was kind of like a reunion for the six of them. She says they can be a little too loud in the delicate moments. I tell her about how my day here started, and my entire phone conversation with Lindsey.
“No,” she says, almost yelling, laughing. “You were not hiding in the closet!”
“Oh, I was, squatted down like an asshole among the suit jackets. I called my sister, Lindsey, and—” and I continue to relive my time sitting there in the dim light with the black tie attire. I tell her about Lindsey, and this morning’s chaos, and the chatter about tulle, and the bustle, and the crinolines. I tell her about shapewear and the horrors of a bunched up pair of panties. She laughs and asks me questions. She finishes her beer and looks at me thoughtfully as I speak to her about things I know she couldn’t possibly care about.
She almost makes me forget that my wedding day was fast approaching. Well, it hasn’t been my wedding day, the fourth of June, I guess I have to say, for about six months now. But as they say, old habits. That seventh wedding I almost made it to, that one would have been mine, and it would have been happening in just a few weeks right here at Brentwood Gardens. This plantation-style house sitting among one of the highest points in the mountains in Brentwood County, Alabama had been where I wanted to get married since, well, forever. I grew up in this county. I’ve seen beautiful brides—cousins, friends, not-so-much friends—get married here, and when Parker asked me to marry him last year I already had the plan. I wanted to go to one wedding, just one, where I didn’t humiliate myself, where I didn’t slip and fall, where I didn’t get too drunk and start passing out free hugs and I love you’s.
I applied to work here before I graduated from the University of Alabama, knowing I would be moving back to Brentwood County to live with Parker and plan our wedding. Just a backup plan, but spending my time working a day job at one of my favorite places on earth, despite several unflattering incidences that have occurred on its grounds, seemed like the perfect way to support myself as I worked on my novel. Months of planning and excitement went by. Brentwood Gardens booked. My dress picked out carefully and purchased. Bridesmaid dresses strategically matched to the color scheme of the table linens, centerpieces, and bouquets. Though we never bought those, and we never planned the honeymoon. My parents’ bankruptcy—that wasn’t something we had planned either.
“This is just something that’s happened, honey. We tried so hard. I’m so sorry,” my mom had said to me through startling tears. Dad was quiet.
Debbie was an angel to give me this job after giving us a full refund— something I just never do, she said—but this place feels a lot more like hell to me today. I wanted to just marry Parker at the courthouse, but he said that wouldn’t do because he knows what Brentwood means to me. We’re still waiting. I’m waiting, will be waiting—hand and foot—on the girls who get to experience my wedding for me. I’m still talking through this thought, and it seems like she doesn’t notice my distraction from stories about the unique mishaps you can encounter in this business.
Once I shut my mouth she tells me she’s happy I found her. Seems she’s pleased that my presence there has diverted her nerves. I tell her that I feel the same way about her. I ask her if it’s scary, being here in the white dress. Is it all she ever thought it would be?
“Truth is,” she says. “I just miss Mason.”
She tells me that since she met Mason, a United States Marine, nearly nine years ago at Brecker’s Pub just outside of Brentwood, they haven’t been able to spend more than a few months at a time together due to his deployment schedule. “I’ve waited so long for this,” she says. “I know he’s been waiting too, but now he’s here. He’s only a few feet away from me, and this time I get to keep him.”
She takes another delicate sip, showing me a grin that told me she was probably thinking about her groom in some way that would make her blush if she ever told anyone exactly what she was thinking. Maybe I am just imagining the flecks of pink beginning to rise in her cheeks. I want to know more, interested in hearing her story. So much so, that this conversation, the one with the woman that intimidated me the most, is turning into the easiest thing that I do all day.
My phone buzzes in my pocket, but I can’t answer. Or look. I think about Lindsey, and how she had said that I could beat this day. This morning seems like so long ago. I think about Parker, and the way he hugged me before I got in my car to come here. Sorrowful. Everyone was feeling sorry for me. Mostly it was me was feeling sorry for me. Parker was waiting for me at home where I see him every single day.
I hear Debbie come in through my ear piece, interrupting a charged moment of silence between Julie and me.
“Well, it’s time to go, future Mrs. Ballard,” I say to her, reaching out my hand and pulling her out of the chair, handing her the bundle of peonies laying in front of her. She looks at me, and tells me thank you. Thank you. I throw the strap of the cooler over my shoulder as she stands.
She grabs the skirt of her dress in a bunch, and lifts it slightly so she could step up into the house, as I hold the door for her while she passes. I lean down and grab the end of her dress, tossing it lightly inside, making it easier for her to walk into the house. I know somehow that I have already survived this first, crazy day, even though it has only barely begun. When I first arrived today, Debbie had handed me a binder full of things for the wedding the next Friday that I had tried not to think about then. Inside was that couple’s invitation: Felicia Cornett and Joel Melton. I remember the invitations had the bride and groom sitting on a bicycle together. Julie has stopped and is looking at me standing there, still holding the door.
I notice her smiling at me, pulling me from the thought of that second invitation, and back into the Brentwood house. I laugh and grab the end of her gown again so we can make it to the back exit, where everyone is already lining up. We pass the foyer again, and turn right into the glass-walled ballroom, an addition to the house in 1986, Debbie said, where Julie is about to exit to the private garden where the bridal party is waiting.
Julie reaches the door, puts her hands on the elegant knob, and turns back to me. She is starting to seem like a real person to me now, though I can’t quite decide what she actually makes of me and my chatter from before. She’s just patient, I think. She has to think you’re completely dense. At least I talked to her, and at least no one tracked me down about that damn hanger incident. At least I took care of her. At least I finally, finally did my job.
“Thanks again, Amber,” she says, and before she leaves me to join her party, readying themselves for that trip down the aisle, she looks me square in the face, her eyebrows pulling closely together, seeming as if she’s trying to remember something, and finally, she speaks again.
“It’s everything,” she says. “Everything I thought it would be. With all the time I had to spend thinking about it, I don’t know, you’d think it couldn’t possibly live up to the hype but it does. Makes it even sweeter somehow.”
“That’s so amazing,” I say, unable to ignore a long-forgotten excitement beginning to rumble in my chest.
I wonder if she knew I wasn’t saying it to her.
"Young and Beautiful" - Lana Del Rey
Made me sneeze repeatedly, and all I could do was thank it. I’ve missed those crazy creations of mine. They have become people that I know. Makes me wonder why I ever put them down.