This year’s writing contest, put on by Museo de la Palabra, had over 35,000 entrants from 149 countries. I am honored to have made the long list, and, consequently, the book–yours free to download here.
Unlike most, if I wake up tired, I have a choice. I’m in my pajamas after all, and therein squats the problem. The best part about being an author is, you guessed it, the same thing that makes it hard.
There are some writers who are able to convince themselves of anything. But if I could say to myself, You’re not tired, then I could also say things like, You believe in the Easter Bunny.
When I had a more traditional job, it was easier to see myself romantically, easier to fantasize stealing away minutes to write. It was also easier to believe that stealing away those minutes was the right thing to do.
So now we skip to the best part of the best part: being an author forces me to have a balanced life. If I wake up and I’m sick or tired or hung-over, I can’t make myself sit at the computer and write well. I just can’t. So if I want to be a writer, then I’ve got to get enough sleep. Things don’t have to be perfect. Occasionally, I row my personal best drunk. (That happened only once in my three years of collegiate crew.) But usually, that’s not how it works.
So, fine, go out and drink like Hemmingway. Early Hemmingway. Smoke a cigar. But then brush your teeth and chug some water and go to bed. After all, it’s easy enough to second guess yourself as a writer. Not working out or getting a good meal or enough sleep, makes it even easier. A good writer is a confident one.
It’s spring, so seek them out.
Find them in your backyard.
Sketch them. Photograph them. Touch them with your fingertips. Squat down and stare.
Think about what they’re doing: what their wind feels like, how their sun shines.
They’re not friends. They won’t advance plot.
They’re details. Micro-environments. Codes.
Beautiful, awkward, leafy, and out of focus. Seemingly unimportant. Let them stand somewhere in your story.
I love naps, plural. And long walks. And small talk with strangers. But I learned at an early age that careers don’t generally include these activities. (I felt astutely prepared for a nine to five.) It took me a while to confront the lion in my driveway: what is productivity?
For a while it felt productive to sit in front of the computer and try. That is, until I realized I wasn’t writing. Anything. (Blank pages provide poor inspiration.) But naps gave me vivid dreams; aimless walks set scenes.
What did you do today? someone asks.
Took a few short naps, went for a walk, talked to this guy I didn’t know.
I dread the question to this day.
As it turns out though, I’m maturing. I’m also fortunate to live with a supportive husband in a place where art has value. And so it might, after all, only be my neighbor’s housecat.
I have been a writer since sixth grade. A quick response to the common question, What do you want to be? (For the record, my teacher, whose name I fortunately cannot remember, then also quickly said, No, no I mean, what do you really want to be, like for a career? Her response will be addressed in a much later much angstier post.)
Later that same year, I wallpapered my bedroom with my own (mostly terrible) poetry. (Below is a brooch I’d like to buy on Etsy.com.)
So this writing career is approximately twenty years old. And yet, I have never belonged to a book club. Sure, sure, I’ve debated plenty of books. In living rooms, literature classes, at bus stops. Once I even debated Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead in a public restroom. The arguing went on for so long that three of my friends eventually came in to see if everything was all right. Freshman year of college at Brandeis University, we all were required to read Anne Fadiman’s The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, but that’s the closest I’ve come to the official tradition.
Truth be told, I’m not much for traditions or clubs, or even large gatherings. I prefer intimacy. I prefer not having things in common. A lot of times, I simply prefer to be left alone.
On Friday, however, all this will (at least temporarily) change. A mix of intelligent women will gather, some of literary backgrounds, some not, and we will eat and drink and discuss Richard Morais’s The Hundred-Foot Journey. I’m skeptical. I’m excited. I’m unsure what to expect. I will be there to listen.
I love rain. Cold rain. Hot rain. Just right rain. Rain that spits or soaks or wakes you up in the middle of the night as it slashes sideways against your window. And the forecast in ‘s-Hertogenosch, Nederland this weekend is nothing but, you guessed it, regen.
I love running in the rain, biking in the rain, and, most importantly, writing in the rain. Or, more accurately, writing indoors next to a big bay window and not just watching it rain but knowing, with every punch of the keyboard, that it, most certainly, is. I love day darkness and monochromatic clouds and everything gloomy that comes with the package.
I love precariously walking my laptop in some kind of plastic grocery bag to the nearest café and commandeering a window seat to write stories about the woman in the perfectly-belted beige trench coach and Gucci umbrella, the little kid decked in one-size-too-small purple slicker, the man who didn’t notice the chasm of intersection puddle that soaked his mesh tennies and white gym socks. And, if, today or tomorrow or next year, I’m the one unknowingly prancing through the puddle, I’d love it if you wrote about me too.
Oh, rain, I love it all. Head to toe. Tip to tail. Rock to rump roast. Happy Friday. Happy raining, blowing, storming, writing weekend.