For Writers

This is my 365th post.  If you’ll remember, a few years ago I made a pact to post on this blog every day for a year.  If I had kept that pact, I would have reached my 365th post long before now.  But I’m still here, and I’m proud as anything of that.  In honor of this special occasion, I thought I’d let someone else talk about writing and its strife.  Although I admit I haven’t experienced a number of the extremes he mentions, I’m glad to think that if I work harder–if I truly work to hone my craft–I can join the ranks of him, and of all the other talented names on my bookshelf.  If not their ranks, then hopefully I can at least share in some of their noble sufferings.

“Damn the Writers”

By Owen Egerton

Dear God,

Spare a blessing for the writers.

We have traded in the bars and bullfights for university jobs and Netflix. We sink into credit card debt awaiting publication, then find the advance won’t cover the monthly interest. Oh Lord, the books that took us years and blood have the shelf life of warm goat milk. In desperation, we write zombie erotica ebooks under false names, outselling our life’s work 10 to 1. Our friends and family flip through our drafts, shake their heads, and return to their game of Candy Crush Saga.

In the midst of all this, may we be writers.

May we grieve and sin and celebrate all in the same swallow.

May we seize morning light and squeeze it into ink and toner.

Grant us coffee and honesty and laptops that do not connect to the internet.

Teach us to be chefs, plucking herbs from sidewalk cracks and mushrooms from basement floors. And if we fail to provide nourishment for the hungry, may we at least offer the aroma of cooking.

We are starving, God. Every last one of us.

May we persevere remembering Emily Dickinson, John Kennedy Toole, and Henry David Thoreau. That said, God, we’d like the timing to be a little kinder in our case.

Deliver us, oh Lord, from the temptation to once again check our Amazon ranking or Google our own name.

May we write books worthy of being banned, outrageous enough to be burned.

May we offend.

May we be open to the wisdom of our colleagues and not a give a fuck if the workshop likes it.

May we visit the hearts of pedophiles and tour bus conductors and volunteers working suicide hotlines.

May we sneak into the funerals of strangers.

May we run mad so we may write for the mad. May we face brokenness so we can give voice to the broken.

A little happiness would be nice as well.

May we remember that how we live is essential to how we write. And refuse to live small.

Stoned or sober, may we piss in the pools of wealthy neighbors, eat in bars with health code violations, and steal bibles from homeless shelters.

May we make love loudly, even when alone.

May we embarrass, embarrass, embarrass ourselves.

May we be lost. May we pen maps so others might become lost as well.

May our greatest risk not be our words but our lives. And may our lives spill words like molten rock.

Damn the writers, God. Then bless us with the words to describe it.

If I sound ridiculous it is because I am ridiculous. This is my religion. This is my faith.

God, cast your gaze upon us. See us in the kitchens, closets, coffee houses. Sitting and scribbling, typing, staring off between words. We raise our souls like a sloshing glass of grain alcohol. We toast one another. We smash the glass and light a match.

Forgive our clichés. Heal our poor grammar. And thank you, dear God, for Spell Check.

Oh Lord, hear our prayer.

Amen.

Magazine Reading

I’m a genuine licked-thumbs, gum-snapping, eye-rolling, foot-jiving magazine skimmer.  I read books to savor them.  I read magazines when I’m too tired for that kind of concentration: I read magazines for the blurbs.  The “Oprah’s Favorite Things” section of O Magazine?  The little “Did You Know” tidbit boxes gracing the margins of InStyle?  They’re my weekend Shakespearean sonnets.

That being said, when I actually sit down and read through an entire magazine article, it has to be exceptionally interesting.

I read this article last night in Runner’s World, having tried to skim past it first, and then having been pulled in regardless:

http://www.runnersworld.com/runners-stories/bret-dunlap-discovered-running-and-it-changed-his-life

Photo credit: Holly Andres

Photo credit: Holly Andres

Even if you, like me, hardly pretend to be a real runner, I think you’ll still find it poignant and inspiring.

Happy weekend!

Forget the Day

I thank the Lord for the nighttime.  As soon as it ticks past midnight, something in me clicks on.  It’s inspiration time around these parts.  It’s dark outside, it’s quiet, it’s perfectly acceptable for me to be on the couch swathed in blankets instead of doing something productive like shoveling snow or shimmying into my running tights for a jog.  My computer pulses silently, its white light hovering close to its metallic surface, and then pulling back again, dimming.

Ruby, our dear dog, who used to look like this, but who has now grown up somewhat (in stature, not in maturity),

DSCN0091

is lying next to me, her back curved against the couch.  She huffs every now and then, whips her tail a little in her sleep.  Ruby carries around the head of her Christmas stuffed raccoon—its body long lost—as if it is very precious, and has been taking great care lately to infuse it with slobber and stray fur to make up for its recent encounter with the washing machine.  She hardly stirs any more when I read a bit of paragraph aloud, or when I rouse myself for juice or phone charger.

This is my time, after all.  It has always been this way.  I no longer expect anyone—including the dog—to stay awake for it.

O, I Am Fortune’s Fool!

I’ve had a line from Shakespeare stuck in my head all week: Romeo has just slain Tybalt.  Ignoring, or perhaps not hearing Benvolio begging him to flee before men arrive, Romeo throws his head back and shouts to the heavens: “O, I am fortune’s fool!”  Tonight, I took action: I watched Shakespeare in Love.  I watched Joseph Fiennes say that line, hand clutching at a plaster pillar.

And then I sat down and wrote a magnificent (if I may say so) introduction to my senior seminar paper.

I’m still at it, and will be as long as inspiration holds.

Goodnight, friends.

And Inspiration Strikes At Last

I tried to play down my agony for the sake of you fine people, but let me tell you that these past few weeks have been awful.  Not wholly awful, but awful in terms of a certain 15-20 page story assignment that has been hovering over my head since the end of January.  I told you I was uninspired.  I told you I was worried.  What I didn’t tell you was that in the space of a few weeks I wondered constantly whether I could even be a writer at all.  Writers, I was sure, should be able to sprinkle ideas like they’re Jolly Ranchers thrown in a parade.

And I didn’t seem to have that capacity.  I came up with three different ideas, but all of them felt stale and lifeless.  I wrote opening paragraphs, but those weren’t any better.

Then, last night, I read the following line in a letter from F. Scott Fitzgerald to his daughter Scottie:

“How strange to have failed as a social creature.”

He was talking about Zelda, the beautiful and damned.  Failed ballet dancer, semi-successful writer, institutionalized former belle.

Suddenly, I had a plot.  I had characters so vivid that I felt I had known them a very long time.  I had a beginning and an end.  I had to resist the temptation to pounce on some strange freshman and explain my magnificent idea.

I realize that the hardest part is yet to come; I still have to write the thing.  But I finally finally know where I’m going, which is as comforting a thought as I’ve ever had.