This story was read aloud at Story Salon in 2007:

     A couple weeks ago I was at the Journalism Association Of Community College’s State Convention in Sacramento.

It went like this.

I was in the news writing competition.   There was a fake news conference. It was a stupid news conference.   It was the announcement that they wanted students to help distribute kits to potentional disaster victims.   The kits are an over sized hanger for front doors and after a disaster they could hang them outside so rescuers could see they needed help.

At the fake conference there were a ton of photographers and there were a ton of writers and there were some really stupid questions that came out of the people.   Because the people were stupid and they asked stupid questions, really stupid and evil questions.   Some of them were nice, and some of them were full of shit.   But after the press conference we went to the room next door to write an article on what had happened.   That’s what the competition was all about.

And I fell apart.   I collapsed and had a minor nervous breakdown.   How do it sit here and tell about the collapse.   I do not know how to write about it.   I knew that I could never write the story.   I knew that I would never be a writer.   I would never be the one to made it happen.   I would never be the one that would be the successful writer.   Why the fuck does it matter.   What it the fucking problem.

I would write a line on the little computer thing and then I would erase the line.   The line would say something like, “I am a complete failure.”   It would say something like “why the fuck am I doing this.”   It would say something like   “I am a complete failure and need to stop pretending that it can happen” It would say something like “I need a Tanqueray Martini Up with Olives.”   It would say something like, “why don’t I just give up.”    And I sat there and stared at the wall and at the screen and then I wrote in my notebook Who What Where When Why.   Trying to make a lead paragraph.   Who: the Safely Out hanger What; the hanger on the doors Where; on the doors of people needing help When: during the disaster Why; to save lives.

And I sat there some more and tried to make the first sentence work.   I knew the first sentence should have the five W’s, but I could not write a sentence that would work, and then I sat and stared at the wall again and then I wrote some more sentences on the computer and found that they were failures and I tried to write the sentence that would make it an interesting beginning and that would not work.   I wanted to mention some lady needing help and it arriving because of the sign on her door, but that would not work because this was the news competition, not the feature competition.

I could feel my heart beating inside my wrists and I could hear the people typing and being successful around me.    It felt like my hands were moving too quickly, but the clock was ticking slower and slower.

They told me half the time was over and we had 30 minutes left and I just sat there and my eyes started to water.   I could not come out with anything.

I felt like I was back in my first year in college and I was sitting in the gymnasium at a desk and there were five hundred other students at similar desks working on the three hour final exam that covered 90 percent of my grade that year.   And after one hour knowing that I had nothing more to write and knowing that I was going to fail this test and that I was going to fail out of school and that all I wanted to do was walk outside and smoke the cigarette filled with hash that I had sitting in my cigarette packet.   But I knew that if I walked out I would have walk past all the other people in my class and they would know that I failed and I could not do that so I sat there and tried to come up with more to write and could not come up with more to write.

After an hour and a half I walked out of the gymnasium past all my classmates, who looked at me with surprise knowing that I had failed.   I could hear my feet click on the hard floor as I walked between the rows of desks.

I wanted to stand up and walk out of the conference, but Brian, who is from my school was next to me, I could not walk out in front of him.   So I would wait for him to get up and leave and then I would just delete what was on my computer and not print it up and not put it in the competition and I would be able to walk away and no harm would come.

So I sat there and I wrote more useless crap.   And then I thought of my friend Michele and how we made a pact on how I had to be fearless.    I had to write this shitty story, I will get it done.   So I wrote a shitty story, and printed it up and turned it in with five minutes to go and I walked out of there knowing I was a complete failure.   I did not want to talk to anyone.   I saw one of the girls from the college and she asked me how I did and I said that I did all right.   And I excused myself and went outside and crowched down against the wall and had a cigarette, and then I had to get on the bus to the sports photography competition.

I sat next to a boy from my school on the bus and I could not talk to him and felt like just jumping off the bus and walking away and then curling up in a corner and drinking.   But I went to the Rugby match and I took pictures.

I could breath again and talk to people by the time the rugby match ended.

On the way home on the bus I found that I had a beautiful photo.

I did not win an award for the news writing competition, but received honorable mention for the Rugby Photo.

Next time completely fearless, even of failure.

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