Category Archives: On Writing

The Dangers of Writing in the Wild

IMG_1869Rural Vermont is, it turns out, very rural. When we arrived, the gray-haired tour guide, who also doubles as the office secretary, detailed which walking areas were safe and which were not. It’s hunting season, she said. You know those blaze-orange beanies you’ve been seeing in town? That’s to set you apart from the deer. I nodded soberly, immediately recalled this horrific hunting “accident” I’d seen on the Investigation Discovery channel months before. Spoiler alert: the dead guy was wearing an orange hat. Stay on the marked trails and you should be fine, she said half-joking. And everybody laughed. But here’s the thing: she was only half-joking.

            Later I saw a woman in running clothes outside my studio building. Where’s the best place to go around here? I said.

            Up the road, she said, past the lumber store, take a left on the trail. It’s a little secluded, but totally beautiful.

            Clearly, I thought, this woman does not watch Investigation Discovery. Do you know how many women runners are accidentally, or not-so-accidentally, hunted when they’re out alone? I don’t have the exact figure, but thanks to a mass chain letter my mother once emailed me—PLZ READ IF YOU LOVE WOMEN, said the subject line, and so I did because what kind of person would I be if I didn’t?—I no longer wear my hair in a ponytail when I run. Continue reading

On Being a Writer of Faith (and of Doubt)

10300238_703013109778807_6610893359144546667_nThis post originally appeared on Good Letters, the blog of Image Journal, on July 16, 2014.

I am not the kind of Christian my parents wanted me to be. Case in point: I rarely call myself a Christian in public. These days it seems more of a political statement than I’d like it to be—and often not one I’d care to make.

I just don’t want the ordeal.

Any faith I could be said to have is troubled by doubt, such that most days I do not know where one ends and the other begins. This is not a new problem for me and hardly unique. It is not even, when you come down to it, a problem. It is simply the way of things.

Most days I feel I am a terrible Christian. And most days that’s exactly what I am.

You will protest. You mean well, of course, but you don’t know me like I know me. The human heart is not an easy organ to live with. Continue reading

The State of a Modern Writer

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Recently, my hubby and I tried to work together. He is a writer, too, though I doubt he would call himself this out loud, or even thinks of himself in this way; what I mean, though, is that he writes for a living. That he is a demographer at work on a dissertation and I am a daydreamer at work on a novel seems irrelevant when it comes to actually doing the work: both of us, after all, have to get our lovely little asses in our chairs and write.

 Sometimes we try to do this together. It does not work often; we are different creatures. My hubby likes coffee shops and office spaces, the gentle pressure he feels to work when other living beings are thinking and moving around him, ostensibly doing their own work in the world.

 I prefer to work at home, alone, where I have a little writing desk wedged into a corner of our living room, facing the wall so as not to become distracted. But distractions abound. There are dishes to be washed, after all, and snacks to be eaten, and back-to-back marathon episodes of Sex and the City to watch. There is also, of course, the couch, where yesterday, after changing into my workout clothes with every intention of walking outside by the canal, arms pumping, I proceeded to sit down and watch television for three and a half hours until I realized I needed to get ready to meet my hubby for a social gathering we had planned. At which time I stripped, showered, and re-dressed myself in what I hoped was casual chic before leaving the house, never having written, or worked out, at all.

 So. Today we went to the public library, my demographer-hubby and me.  Continue reading

How to Write in a Sick Person’s Body

photo-48This post originally appeared on Good Letters, the blog of Image Journal, on October 16, 2013.

Not too long ago, just as spring was turning over into summer, I awoke with a slight numbness in the fingers of my right hand. The morning was early yet, the sky outside still dark, and as I wrote, my fingers were a little slower than usual to find their keys. By the end of the day, I was fumbling in the most ordinary of tasks, like opening a jar of peanut butter or reaching for a doorknob.

The next morning, I dropped my toothbrush; days later, I could no longer sign my name, which struck me as somewhat scandalous. I could not brush my hair (a secret vanity of mine), or unbutton my husband’s shirt (a secret pleasure of an altogether different kind).

Before the end of the week, I found myself in the radiology unit of our local hospital. As the technician pushed me into the MRI machine, I thought of medieval monks with their halos of hair and the coffins they climbed into each night to sleep.

Time is an altogether other force in the tube—it operates by a different set of rules—but inside, holding myself stiller than still as each scan sounded its blaring alarm, I did not worry so much as wonder at this swift betrayal of my body. Even then, in those early days, my body did not seem unkind to me.  Continue reading