Sunday, August 23, 2015

about writing and the perils of this chair

It's the tenth anniversary of the fire in my basement, which happened mid-August 2005. As I gazed at the stinking, smouldering ruins, I thought my life was in ruins too. And then the insurance paid for them to rip out my kitchen and basement and build them again, all beautiful and new. That fire was one of the best things that has ever happened to me. Go figure. Of course, all the appliances, which are 9 years old, are starting to break at once. First world problems. Happy anniversary, dear beloved house.

One thing they don't teach you in writing school is how to keep your bum and legs from going to sleep. I've been sitting here for so long today that my lower half has gone numb and my back aches. That's bad. I just can't fathom a walking desk. Too much going on at once for my old brain. No, sitting it is. Must move more tomorrow.

But I've had a wonderful solitary day again. Last night I worked till midnight and was awake at 6, up at 7. Had a tiny jogette, listening to Eleanor Wachtel while cooking, read the newspaper, and otherwise, just worked on the memoir. Oh, and picked some veggies.
Did I talk to anyone? A brief phone call or two. No, only one, and some texting. Oh, and I got milk and avocados at No Frills. Otherwise - 1979.

And this - this motionless silent day with sore back - is heaven for a writer. One of the things I did was to go through old stuff in my Documents file to see if there was anything I could use. Found lots of interesting bits, not useful necessarily but good to read again. I found a file I'd made in 2002 for a conference of UBC Creative Writing graduates that I flew out for, of diary entries I'd written when I was studying with them. I'd forgotten how very self-deprecating I was about writing - how frightened, how convinced I could never do it. Of course, I had a small child and an extremely busy husband, then moved across the country to Ottawa where I worked doing voiceover for documentaries and was doing my Master's long distance. But I still blamed myself for not writing in a disciplined way, I just can't do it, I wrote in my diary. I was 32.

Feb. 14 1983

I feel somewhere I will never be a really good writer – I don’t work hard enough. I’m also wishy-washy, sentimental and vague, and my poor memory is against me. I can’t remember things which would make good comparisons, or facts, or new words. I should give up before I begin. But I do love it.

A year later, I wrote this. Though I didn't know it yet, I was probably just pregnant with my son, who was born October 13.

Jan. 17, 1984

It has just occurred to me and dawned on me and hit me like a beam of light and the blow of a hammer: I do want to be a good writer. I do I do. 

There is something about this process – this sitting alone at a desk with paper and pen – that I love, that feels right, that should be. This I feel respect for, as a craft, a profession, a life’s work. Another futile page of words – a profession overcrowded and underpaid in a world increasingly less literary – but the beauty of writing, the decisions between brain and pen, gut and brain and pen – and then what there is, what is left behind, is something to READ. 

So it is time to DO this. Do it hard and often and with concentration – and with only your own eyes to tell you if it’s working, and only your own need to get you in here and sit you down, and make you bend over this page and get on with it.

You must believe that not only are you meant to be doing this but that it means something to others that you do this – that someone will want to read you. And that what you write, when you eventually learn how to do it well, will move someone, or give someone pleasure, or a new thought.

I want to be a writer when I grow up.

And I did, though it took me a very long time. My first book wasn't published until 23 years later. But I got there eventually. 

And here I am. With numb bum. 

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