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Stabs at a Writing Life


I’m not thinking about much else but writing these days. Only, I’ve been exhausted—and here I type this with a headache—probably because I’m trying to push myself so hard.

I am under deadline with a freelance writing project—and I am behind, very behind—and the day job is cutting into my time. I try to write every morning before work, but it’s not enough. Twice this week I decided to write during my lunch break. Problem is, Midtown is packed with people. And loud. So loud. Writing at any of the local Starbucks turned out to be impossible, unless I wanted to stand at a counter with my laptop, and I couldn’t find another cafe with tables. But yesterday I found a “public space”—a wide open building the width of a block, filled with tables and chairs where people can take their lunches. It’s a bit of a walk from the office, and there are no outlets, but it’s worth it, I think, to always be guaranteed a table. I might have to spend a lot of lunch breaks there if I want to make my deadline.

It’s funny how productive you can be when you have very little time to work with.

* * *

I was at work, at my desk, confirming an author’s website for a book jacket when I happened upon a blog post the author wrote about the very book that I was checking. The author said it made no sense how being finished with a book could be so depressing—how now it was all about what other people think of it, and what if they don’t notice it at all, or worse, what if they hate it? I understand this compunction, though I’ve never been lucky enough to be in this position. But I know how good a manuscript feels once you’ve worked through it and you hold it close and you take your moment with it—before anyone else sees it and, inevitably, ruins it. Yes, I’m very sensitive. I’ve always been that way; ask my mom.

After reading this author’s blog post, I didn’t want to give myself away (if any authors think of the production editor who works on their book I figure it’s either with complete disinterest or with disdain, since I’m that annoying person who puts the copyedits through and asks the bothersome queries), so I didn’t make a comment. But what I wanted to say to this insecure author is: I LOVE your book. I love the voice, I love the concept, I think it’s fantastic.

As a writer I admire it very much.

As a production editor I keep my opinions to myself.

* * *

I have very little vacation time at work. It’s a travesty. I envy people from other countries with their long paid holidays—imagine how much writing I could get done if I had five or six weeks off! As it stands I have just two weeks vacation, plus five personal days though they should not be used for “vacation.” I’m taking six of my vacation days for a writing conference this summer. I’m going to Tin House and I already found out I’ll be in Aimee Bender‘s workshop, a writer I have admired since she published a story in The Antioch Review, a literary journal I had a work-study job at when I was in college. Her collection The Girl in the Flammable Skirt is one of my all-time favorites. I have no idea how I will be able to afford this conference, but I made the decision that if they let me in, I’d find a way to go. I’ll still keep my fingers crossed for a scholarship though. (Decisions aren’t announced till May.)

But if I had more vacation time, I’d apply to more conferences. Sewanee was too long—I wouldn’t have enough days left to cover it—and it’s really too bad because I went to it some years ago and it was amazing. I also wanted to try the Wesleyan Writers Conference, and Squaw Valley.

I haven’t been workshopped in years. I’m nervous.

* * *

The ideas keep coming. They always do, when you don’t have the time to get to them. I keep forgetting to write them down; I assume they’ll be there always, but that’s not the case. I just hope they’ll stay intact a little while longer.

* * *

I am beginning to wonder what is really important. I shouldn’t say beginning to wonder—I’ve been wondering awhile—I’m just beginning to wonder what I could realistically give up to have more time to write.

How important is living in New York City?

How important is cable TV?

Wireless internet access?

How important are my morning mochaccinos?

Takeout Thai food?

Who needs new shoes?

Fashion magazines?

Vacations to writing workshops?

Good credit?

Job security?

Health insurance?

The list goes on.

I don’t have the answers, I’m just wondering…

* * *

What I want to be writing is my own novel that sits waiting for me to return to it, only after this deadline is met. I think of it often. It has the most vivid pictures. I will probably have to wait until April to begin work on it again. April feels so far away, but it’s next month!

* * *

We renewed the lease on our apartment, so we’re here in New York another year—technically.

(The photo above is the view from our bedroom window. That’s a parking garage.)

But even so I feel freer than I have in a long time. I feel like something is coming. I feel like if I keep putting myself out there and making an effort—if I don’t give up—something real will come. And even if it doesn’t, there’s still the next thing, and the next thing, and the next thing.

I feel like we’re parked in that garage, but we’ll be pulling out someday—maybe if we’re lucky it’ll be soon.

4 thoughts on “Stabs at a Writing Life

  1. ooooh! Aimee Bender! I had her as a workshop leader at Napa a few years ago–she is awesome. You will love her. She will probably not remember me, but tell her I said hi.😉

  2. Congrats on Tin House! I went to a summer conference last year, and had a better time than I was even occasionally willing to let myself imagine beforehand. My understanding is that’s a pretty common experience, so I’ll bet yours is the same.

  3. In that picture, some of those bricks look absolutely alive. The whole face of that wall looks alive!! It’s incredible.
    I hope you get through the deadline. & I’ll cross my fingers too, for a scholarship.
    I feel like we’re parked in that garage, but we’ll be pulling out someday—maybe if we’re lucky it’ll be soon.
    It will.

  4. Pingback: What a Writer is Reading on the Web, 3/2/08 | Real Words

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