On Wanting

“What I can say, Katie, is that you want this more than anyone in this graduating class.”

It’s been years, and I constantly go back to that moment. Sweating through my blazer, my cheap Forever 21 necklace strategically covering a baby vomit stain on my shirt, waiting for my academic jury to reach their decision as to whether or not I would finish the MFA Program.

Before she told me I passed, my program director said this to me.  

You want this more than anyone.

I was confused. Not because it wasn’t true – it was. I’d squeezed my pregnant belly into the classroom seats. I attended class three weeks after a near-death C-section. I finished scripts for my MFA program while rocking an infant to sleep on my parent’s kitchen floor, where my husband and I lived for a year… all while completing two different graduate programs at once.  

You want this more. Not – you deserve this more. Not you are the most talented.

I rolled that proclamation around my mind, trying to place it. It didn’t sound like a compliment, and – for years – I wasn’t sure she meant it as one.   

I am thinking about it a lot more, lately. Especially since I thought that the days of sleeping on a kitchen floor were over, and it feels like they are back with a vengeance. And there’s a part of me that doesn’t want to air all my dirty laundry on here, because my brand looks better if I stick to photos of cold brew and River’s gummy grin. I have a lot more to lose, now. I have an *~image~* to maintain. Four books with major publishers. Three adorable kids. String-light filled house. Cozy writing room and the endless hustle, because I am **aWEsOOmE**.


But screw it. I’ve been trying to write for months, and it’s like rusty water slipping from a tap because I’m trying so hard to keep this image of myself put together. So here I am, hitting the faucet with a rubber mallet while loosing a war cry. It’s going to be messy.


This year has been really, really hard. And it’s been the year that’s supposed to be my victory lap – my book came out! It’s the year for travel. It’s the year to cash in and realize that I have arrived.

But it doesn’t feel that way.

Both of my books slated for 2020 were moved to 2021. This happens all the time in publishing, but it meant that my income shifted, as well. Fine – I took some freelance work to keep us afloat.

Then, my grandfather died.

A few weeks later, I had to sit in the radiology department with my infant daughter for a scan because they weren’t sure if she had macrocephaly.

My mom had always told me what it was like to try and hold down my older sister when it came time for heart scans. How they had to put her in a tube. How she screamed. I had to hold my own daughter down in the same way, biting back tears as the smell of antiseptic and ultrasound jelly filled nose and the thought – that River is now the same age my sister was when she died – filled my head.  My daughter is fine, thank God. No macrocephaly. But the sorrow that dislodged in me is like brick wall that shifted in an earthquake. Some of the edges are pointing out, now. Crooked teeth. I brush up against them accidentally sometimes, and I bleed.

Student loans came due. Ross described it a bit like the scene where the Upside Down slowly strangles Hopper in Stranger Things. I felt that. My freelancing gig kept us above water.

Then, there was the “Cricket has a strange growth on her lip” week. That was fun. She’s fine too, thank God. Never have I been more thankful that she’s just a loveable idiot who stuck her face in a black widow’s web.

People post things about my book on the internet. Sometimes what they say is nice. Sometimes it’s not. I retweet the nice things. I remember the mean things to convert into fuel when I feel strong enough.

Two weeks ago, the freelancing gig popped into my DMs to let me know they were discontinuing my contract “for the time being”, because they’d decided to discontinue their blog series. They wanted to let me know ASAP so I had “plenty of time! SMILEY FACE SMILEY FACCCCEEE”. (Yeah, there were EMOJIS in the message.) They gave me a week’s notice.

I don’t know if you’ve ever had bills or a life or basic human needs – but one week’s notice is not “plenty of time”. ANGRY FACE ANGRY FAAACCCEEEE

Both our cars have the engine lights on. The sliding door on the passenger side of my van no longer works. A step on our stairs is missing its front face because it just… fell off. I just got over a 24-hour flu that made it so I couldn’t even stand. I can keep full meals down, now.

Ross works overtime a couple times a week. I make mac and cheese and do baths and jammies and prayers and I try to keep the “losing my shit” to a minimum. So like… four or five times. Tops.


Last night I had to decide whether or not to buy paper towels or fruit, because we couldn’t afford both at once. My email is full of waiting and maybes and almosts. It’s full of rewrite and no and try again.

You want this more than anyone.

I lean my head against the wall when I shower, now. Like a character in a movie. And I think about those words.

You want this more than anyone.

I weightlift in the garage and scream-sing “Waving Through a Window” from Dear Evan Hansen. Sorry, neighbor next door. Maybe this makes up for leaving your blind dog outside in the cold to bark for three straight years.

You want this more than anyone.

Those words used to haunt me. I’ve thought a lot about why.

Because girls aren’t supposed to want things the most. We’re not supposed to claim and conquer. Hell, we even look around the room before we raise our hand when we know the answer. We’re taught cautionary tales about women who want too much. I learned the fate of Joan of Arc in history class. I’ve seen women candidates poll low for their “crazy eyes” and Serena Williams suffer criticism for the passionate defense of her game. I watched Daenerys Targaryen’s body collapse to the stone before the Iron Throne, undone by her excess of want.

We’re prized for being demure, and winning only looks good on us when it catches us by surprise.

And sometimes still I wonder if maybe this is what I get for wanting. Maybe the road doesn’t have to be this hard if I just.. stopped pushing so damn hard and did something else. Anything else. Maybe I’d feel less delusional. Maybe things would be easier. (Even though, full disclaimer: I know full well that my hard time? My worst time? It’s still a time where I have a house. I have a van to gripe about and food to feed my kids – my healthy, safe kids.) Still. Maybe that thought is why I didn’t blog for so long. I didn’t want to let you know how hard I was trying.

How much I want this.

But I have this little metal ball spinning under my ribs. It glows at night and warms me up, and it tells me that I serve a God who made me with a specific purpose. And that I will fulfill it, and that I really believe, with everything I am, that this “writing thing” is it. I believe this is what I am made to do. I am made to tell stories. I am made to raise my kids. I am made to do both, so I believe He will show me how to do both. My moment will come. I have to believe that.

And when it does, I don’t want to arrive with my hair in place, sly smile on my lips like I just flitted down and lighted on this opportunity by pure happenstance. Shiny little wings winking as I cover my mouth like the winner of the Miss America pageant. What is this? Success? Me? No! Oh my gah I can’t believe it—

No way. I punched through steel for this. I wiped tears off my face with my wrists because my hands were covered in baby shit for this. I woke up at five in the morning for this. I cried in the pantry so my kids couldn’t see for this. I re-wrote from page one six times for this. I crash-landed for this. Dirt and flames and blood and ash on my sweaty face for this.

This year has been a trial by fire. And through it, two small, still-piping hot ball bearings roll through. They clink across the floor, and they’re hot in my palm as I cradle them. Tiny wins:

I signed with UTA for my screenwriting. They’d always represented my book-to-film stuff, but now they represent me. My agent took my pilot out last week.

I made the semi-finals for NBC Writers on the Verge. I made the cut from about 2500 down to about 120. I’ll take that.

Maybe I shouldn’t write that. Maybe it will just be embarrassing when I don’t make it to the finals. Or when my pilot goes back on a shelf.  

But I just told you I can barely afford paper towels, so I guess we’re past that, right? And honestly, it won’t matter. I’ll keep going, even if the answer is no on these things. Even if I tuck these ball bearing wins into my pocket to cool and carry them through the rest of 2019. Even if these are the only professional wins the fire spits back out.

So now I open a new Final Draft doc and crack my knuckles. I have dried blood on my cheek, and I’m not sure where it’s from. But I’ll handle that later.

I have work to do.

Because flattering or not, the words are true.

I want this more than anyone.