Tag Archives: The Writing Life

Dear God, Where Have I Been?

Is leaving for a month without notice just blogging suicide? Will a humble apology do (mea culpa) or is there flogging involved?

I don’t know exactly what happened.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I have a host of excuses. A million of them. Some could even make you cry.

But I can’t roll out that list. Pointless because every writer has them. Poe an addict, Toni Morrison a single working mom, JK Rowling on the Dole. Virginia Wolf was certainly down in the dumps.

So let’s just move on.

Except there is one small thing.

I realized today I’m angry. At everything. At everyone. It’s not a huge loud anger. And it is murky and misdirected. But I think it is anger nonetheless.

This happened once before when I was going through a huge psychological transition in my life, at the end of which I was divorced, gay, bartending, and writing.

And now, 25 years later I’m wondering, what the hell is left?

But something is left. Something has been sitting and stewing deep in the darkness like Gollum in The Hobbit, just waiting for that ring. And pardon the pun, but I can’t put my finger on it.

I don’t think therapy can help with this one. Or food, or avoidance, or prayer, or alcohol. Not even a winning lottery ticket, which is what I usually hold out hope for, despite the fact that I never play.

Maybe Morgan Freeman could help. I like him. Maybe a nice hobby, like scrapbooking or bodysurfing.

It’s hard to have an existential crisis at my age. I feel ridiculous. Petty. I can’t sing Coldplay’s Fix You at the top of my lungs and have anyone take me seriously and join in.

But I can blog. I can come back to this, sit here and hit the Publish key, hope someone is still out there.

Lights will guide you home…

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Artist Envy

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.

 

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Just Cuz I Said It Don’t Mean That I Meant It

Is it me or are the robins gigantic this year? It’s been raining on and off all day and these huge fat robins are poking around on our newly seeded front lawn ripping worms out of the earth like it was their last meal. Usually robins are such an iconic sign of spring. Their sweet little chirp, their blue speckled eggs, their shiny red breasts. But these guys are monstrous. Round glassy yellow eyes darting around like guilty serial killers, chests ripped from steroids and the $10 a month deal at Work Out World, Pterodactyl beaks ravaging villages of worms. Is this another side effect of Global Warming? Rejects from the set of The Hunger Games? An overactive imagination and too much caffeine?

Or maybe I’m just distracting you from what’s really going on. From the New Year’s resolution to go at my writing like a nuclear missile set on Russia. From my promise to write daily or at least have a weekly schedule that I adhere to. For every feeble attempt at trying again and failing. For ditching this blog. For taking 3 weeks to read The Plot Against America (in my defense the language is pretty dense and I’m not much of a history buff). I’m trying to cover up the fact that I gave up for awhile again. That I chickened out. Decided it was too hard. Packed my bags and left.

But today a copy of Poets & Writers mysteriously appeared in the mail (did I order it in an alcoholic stupor some night and not remember?). And I commented on another blog. And I had a dream last night that a colleague at work read my novel in progress and told me to quit my job and keep writing. And if that isn’t enough, I got on the elevator with a woman who smelled like Kentucky Fried Chicken and started writing a story about her in my head.

I will take all these signs and any other the world is willing to throw my way to get back to the writing. And I’m not going back grudgingly or blindly. I know there’s a ton of work ahead and I know I’m going to fail again. I’m going to be a worm in the beak of a giant robin and feel it swallow me whole. But there will also be days when I’m the robin. When I come out strutting my big ass self across your newly planted lawn and there’s not a thing you can do but stare. Inside me is the worm, scared and shaking. But outside are the crazy good sentences, and a few genuine characters that tug at your heart, and a scene that has you howling and crying and peeing your pants, and a fleeting moment of me out there. Putting myself right out there for anyone to see, for anyone to read.

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Writers Anonymous

It’s my writing day.

I woke up at 6:15 AM.

I made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for my 16-year-old because every day she rolls out of bed to get ready and makes it to the bus without a second to spare and she doesn’t eat breakfast or lunch but will eat this sandwich behind her Spanish book or in Advisory where no one cares what you do.

My 12-year-old has been up since 5:00 AM, walked on the treadmill, showered and dressed and is eating a bowl of Kashi cereal watching the Fairly OddParents on Nick. I wonder how it’s possible they both came from the same womb. After making coffee from Keurg’s miracle machine (French Roast, Dark, Ahhh) I sit with her trying to wake up, feeling like a Fairly Odd Parent myself. The little dog jumps up at me. She has her scuzzy toy mitten and wants me to throw it so she can get it, bring it back, and pretend she won’t let me get it. I get it. I throw it again. The beagle jumps up and sniffs my coffee. I take it black so she’s not interested. She looks at the little dog. What a pest, she thinks, and curls into a ball by my side.

My spouse asks me to fix her cufflinks before she leaves for work. She’s wearing a gorgeous stripped Brooks Brothers shirt and smells good. I’m wearing a terry cloth coral robe that covers an oversized grey paint stained t-shirt. My hair is snarled and unruly from a restless nights sleep. Even my eyebrows have snarls. My breath could kill crabgrass.

The 12-year-old gets ready for the bus. She pulls on a hat, a scarf, a winter coat. The oldest left in a fleece sweatshirt.

I switch to a cooking channel, watching Mario Molto make soup from little fishes, their heads still intact, their eyes rolled to the heavens. I click to see what Al Roker is up to but he’s not there. Instead, one of the hosts interviews Lindsay Lohan. They ask if she is sober. She says, of course. They ask how long. She says she doesn’t know but a long time. They ask what she thought about Whitney’s death. She stares blankly. I don’t know anything about Lindsay Lohan, but even I can tell she’s going to fall again. She may already be slipping.

I decide to start writing before I shower. Not always a good strategy but I go with it. In the basement, I turn on the computer. The Internet won’t work and my virus protection has expired. Immediately I have to go to the bathroom. So I shuffle back up the stairs. I really need Naprosyn but keep forgetting to call for the refill. I groan dramatically for the sake of the dogs but barely get a raised ear.

Upstairs I unplug and plug-in a wire, turn off and turn on a few buttons, shuffle to the bathroom, then to the Miracle Machine for more French Roast. I read an essay about writing by Carolyn Chute who I haven’t thought of in years (remember The Beans of Egypt, Maine?). She’s still out there writing. In fact, she could be out there writing today, just like me. Except I’m not really writing yet. So I limp downstairs again and get the Internet working and make it to my blog by 8:45. And I start writing this. And I feel it. The hum and buzz of the others. Sitting in their basements, their screend-in porches, their highrise or ocean view offices, their workshops or classes or libraries. Writing. The Carolyn Chutes and the Toni Morrisons and the Michael Cunninghams and the Stephen Kings and the MFA students in Iowa and the off-off Broadway playwrights and the highschool kid in the back of their math notebook and the secretary during her lunch hour and S. and W. and K. and M. and J. and E. all humming and buzzing with words and ideas and characters and writing.

Be a writer, said Sorche Fairbank in a recent workshop. Don’t think you have one novel or movie in you. Write essays and blogs and lists and short stories and ideas and novels and anything at all as long as you are writing.

Be a writer.

So I am. In my coral bathrobe and fuzzy slippers. My eyeglasses spotted with toothpaste and slipping down my nose. My French Roast in a big orange mug and my books piled high and the cobwebs and the dogs snoring above me and my family off in the world, I’m a writer. I’ve been a writer for a long time.

And you?

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