Tag Archives: Writing

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

A Baptism by Dishwater, Courtesy of Mary Oliver

photo-47On days like today, when I wake up early enough that the world still has a kind of blue-lit darkness to it, I feel as though the world belongs to me alone. Snow covers the ground in patches and the sky hangs low. I stand at my kitchen sink, looking out over the canal outside my window, where wild geese gather, honking happily at me in the cold morning air.

I sip my cup of matcha, then feel the fluttering of an old woman at my back, a gray-haired poet moving about my kitchen, making impossible exhortations as she roots around in my green cupboards: “You do not have to be good,” she says. “You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.”

I try to believe this.

In the fall, outside this same kitchen window, there sprung a beautiful, bright red bush. It was an unworldly color. All season long, washing dishes at the kitchen sink, I stared at that bush in my bare feet, half-expecting it to burst into flame at any moment.

Some days, there was the rustling of leaves, a sound that, if you did not strain too hard, might be a whisper.

I have nobody who can confirm this, but I should tell you: I believe I am my best self when I am standing alone at my kitchen sink. All manner of things happen to me on that little rug where I wash the dishes. Geese descend. Poetry arises. A bush alights.  Continue reading

A Peculiar Case of the Body Snatchers

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As it turns out, I have a body.

I am thirty years old, but this is news to me.  

I have spent much of my life in my head, contemplating and imagining and daydreaming and worrying and, of course, reading and writing. All of these skills are very good skills to have, I believe; for me, they are essential to meaning-making and good storytelling and, that very best thing of all, love, love, and still more love. (Which is to say: the good life.)

And yet, spending so much time in my head sometimes gets me into a bit of trouble.

For starters, a permanent crease (read: wrinkle) has settled between my eyebrows, such that it looks like I’m perpetually in deep-thinking mode, even in those rare moments when I truly am just staring off blissfully into space, for once not taking myself too seriously—not taking myself any way at all, actually. (Now that I think about it, I suppose my face really has gotten stuck “that way,” as the adults in my life always warned the child-me that it would. I did not know then the hazards that too much thinking could pose to a person’s soul, much less her body. Sigh.)

I am what I believe they call too cerebral. (As if you hadn’t gathered as much already.)

And so, when my body began failing me, at first I did not notice; or I noticed, but I did not heed it. Who needs a body?  Continue reading

Confessions of a Rookie Blogger

 

IMG00038-20110107-1358I cannot tell a lie. I have blog envy. You know the blogs of which I speak (er, write): those hip, beautiful, impossibly current and tirelessly relevant blog entries that someone, somewhere out there in the ether, devotedly posts in such timely and regular fashion as to make the rest of us (read: me) look, well, lazy. (After all, the title of this blog just about necessitates that I, in fact, post in fits and starts, wouldn’t you say?)

These blogs are witty. Or full of beautifully staged photographs keenly stylized so as to look precisely un-stylized. The bloggers have christened themselves with clever nicknames. Or they’ve christened their readers with clever nicknames (because, you know, they actually have readers—scratch that, they have followers).

Some days it’s enough to make this rookie throw up her hands in despair.

Because, to be honest, I find the Internet—and all its constant, continual updating of information and commentary—to be, well, exhausting. Sure, I waste as much time as the next writer reading Buzzfeed accounts of the nostalgic whimsy of the Koosh ball when I should actually be, oh, I don’t know, writing. But I find it over-stimulating, this kind of reading—it’s burdensome, draining. I still operate in an increasingly shrinking universe where paper rules. I find comfort and rest and beauty in the pages of physical books. I need to hold the story in my hands, feel the weight of the words as a physical presence in the world. (The word made flesh, you might say.) But I digress. (Sigh.)  Continue reading