Today is my writing day, but I’m not doing a lot of writing. I am mostly thinking about visual artists. I want to be one. Instead of sitting hunched over at this desk getting carpal tunnel and vitamin D deficiency I would be out walking with a sketchbook drawing stuff. I’d collect interesting rocks, leaves, pieces of twine, Queen Ann’s Lace, scallop shells, discarded coffee cups, seaweed, feathers. I’d take pictures of old people and twisted tree branches and clouds shaped like Elvis. I’d wear funky walking shoes and black leggings. My hair would be thick and wild or maybe cut short and blunt with magenta highlights. I’d be thin from all that walking. I’d drink exotic loose leaf teas and for lunch I’d eat fig jam on crusty bread with brie. Everything I did would seem “artsy” instead of awkward or average or domestic. I’d drink cheap wine in smoky green glass tumblers and shop at consignment stores. I’d smell like oil paint and sea salt and freedom. I’d spend fall in Vermont and summers in P’town and winter in Italy. In spring I would go into a deep depression, isolate, and create stunning collages and sculptures from recycled garbage. I’d paint a self-portrait in oils and sea glass. I wouldn’t watch TV.
But instead I must write. I have to go inside my head to a place and to people who hide in shadows and coax them out onto the page. I have to sit with myself, in my basement, unshowered, glasses sliding down my nose, braless, drinking cold coffee in an oversized orange cup, wearing a sweat stained Poets & Writers baseball cap, surrounded by books that thrill and taunt me…can you do this, they whisper, do you have what it takes?
There is no glamour in writing. People don’t think you are cool. They think everyone’s writing a book. They think you’re going through a phase. They ask what your book is about and when you falter they think it must be boring or crap.
If you are out there writing, you know what it’s like. You know it is lonely and tedious and debilitating. You know it makes you feel foolish and masterful and nervous and love stuck and helpless all at once. You know it is slow going and impossible and compelling and dangerous. You know that a really good book makes it look so easy, and you are awestruck because you know just how crazy hard it is.
So maybe in my next life I get to be an artist. For now, though, I’ll keep my ass in the chair. I’ll hit the keyboard and squint at the shadows and write something. And if I’m lucky it will change me. Like continental drift, slowly move me to another place, altering everything around me one breath at a time.