I’m trying.

It’s never flattering, pushing yourself outside your comfort zone. Opening up your chest and letting people see inside and maybe take a swing at your softest parts, if they want.

I happened to see a last-minute call on Facebook for an open slot for love-themed artwork for the February exhibition at the Gordon JCC‘s art gallery. I emailed the curator my balloons-in-the-trash photo from a few years ago and asked if she’d be interested in it, even though it’s not, ah, all that lovey-dovey. She was more into it than I figured and asked me to bring both the black and white and the color versions. Fast forward to me frantically Googling how to frame/mount photos for gallery display.

When I delivered them — an 11×17 and an 8×10, both framed crisply — she seemed to think they were well priced and might actually sell. Stranger things have happened, probably. So, that’s something to look forward to this month. There’s an exhibition opening on Valentine’s Day, with snacks and wine and such. Pretty neat. Can’t wait to see the other works.

I wrote and submitted a poem to Nashville Review. I’ve got a couple other things I’m working on that I don’t feel are polished enough to submit yet. Truthfully, that one might not have been either but it felt right and the submission deadline clock was ticking and I was having an otherwise very productive day so I felt like “submit a poem for publication” was a reasonable things to want to get ticked off the ol’ to-do list so I just did it. Uncritiqued and everything. Yes, I know how silly and brazen that is. And still. I did it and I lived and I will also live if and when I receive a rejection. It’s the doing the thing that matters, right now.

Next month I’m attending a mixed-media collage-making workshop put on by Wayne Brezinka, who makes such beautiful things. I’m hoping to unblock some creativity. Get some things flowing. Think differently. Lose some fear. So forth and so on.

I’m also trying to fit some writing workshops and meet-ups into my schedule, although this part is a little more daunting to me than the actual writing stuff. My introversion wants to take over and tell me that I cannot possibly mix it up with strangers and show them my work or get anything useful from them — or offer anything useful to them — from them in return. But I know this is not true and that I must. And I will. It will get easier.

I’m doing a Project 365, but this one uses one second of video from every day of your year to make an end-of-year 365-second video. There’s an app to help, of course, and yeah yeah I have already missed one day, but who’s counting?

And then the biggie: I’m working on a novel. Two, actually, but the one I started the year working on has taken a back seat to the one based on this horrifying story from my hometown, which I have written about in passing before. I think about that story from time to time and mentioned it to my friend Olivia, who co-hosts a true-crime podcast that specializes in obscure and local true-crime stories. She did some digging in old news clips and put together an episode about the case. She and her co-host Thashana were kind enough to invite me on Something’s Not Right to talk about the murders from my perspective as a then-17-year-old high school senior. (Click here and select episode 33 to listen.) I hope it goes without saying that my contributions are unscientific and purely speculative, based on innuendo and rumor, so don’t @ me.

Anyway, that story has haunted me through my adult life and I’ve always wanted to write something based on it. So I finally am. I am basing my story loosely on the true events but with purely fictional twists. I started out thinking it’s a YA novel but the deeper I get into it, the less sure I am that that is the right fit, based on how depraved and dark it is going to be. It might be NA or maybe just plain old fiction for whatever age wants to dive into this kind of story.

I’m not ruling out some day trying to write a nonfiction retelling of the real story, but that will require taking time off to do proper research on site in Hardin County, and I haven’t been able to commit the time to that. I want to, though. I feel like a sabbatical from work to write a book is a rite of passage that I would like to experience some day.