Gonna write another novel

photo-46I’m going to write another novel.

I surprise myself by

Saying it/

Writing it

Out loud.

There’s a certain hubris to saying

I’m going to do something like that,

Like saying I’m going to

Run a marathon

Before I’ve gone out for my first jog.

In fact,

They are not dissimilar,

Writing novels and training for marathons.

I’ve never run a marathon,

But from what I understand,

It’s a lot of

Inglorious training:

Getting up early in the dark

When everyone else is still asleep.

Sacrifices and trade-offs made.

Can’t stay up to watch

Sunday night football.

Gotta get to bed early,

Get up early for my

Morning training.

I feel okay telling you

I’m going to write a novel because

I’ve done it before.

Twice, actually.

(Both unpublished!)

So I know I can do it.

I think it would be possible to

Write one or two novels,

And run one or two marathons

With your eye on the result,

Yet hating the day-to-day training.

Bumbling out of bed,

Dreading the blank page or the

Cold concrete.

And making yourself do it

Anyway.

Because it’s one of your life goals:

To write a novel,

Or run a marathon.

But to keep doing it

Year after year,

Marathon after marathon,

Novel after novel,

You’d have to figure out

How to enjoy the daily training.

To not dread it.

To go to sleep at (8:00 at) night

Looking forward to your alarm going off at

4:00 a.m.

Because you’ve built your

Life around this

Hobby,

This passion.

Because you love it.

You love not just

Completing the marathon (the novel)

Or even the daily training exercise.

You love the daily training

Itself.

My first two novels

Were so willful.

I was so fixated on the result of

Having Written A Novel,

That I dreaded the practice of writing.

“I hate writing;

I love having written,”

Said one famous author.

But that’s not sustainable.

What’s the point?

It’s very possible I

Won’t make a cent on my novels,

That they’ll get rave reviews from

Close friends and family,

And that’s it.

They might completely suck.

It’s a hobby,

And a pretty demanding one,

So I’d better enjoy it.

It’s taken

Years

For me to learn how to enjoy a

4:00 a.m. writing session.

Mornings are best

Because I don’t have

Time to talk myself out of it.

Alarm goes off at 4:02 a.m.,

No snooze,

No thinking,

Just up.

(That’s the name of my alarm:

“Up.”)

Creep around the bedroom with my

Flashlight app,

Pulling on my training clothes–

Running shoes because

I write standing up.

Downstairs in the dining room,

I set up my writer’s space.

Virginia Wolff was wrong.

A woman does not need

Money

And a room of her own

To write fiction.

The dining room table is my desk.

In the still-dark early morning,

I fill it up with candles, talismans and tchotchkes.

I provide myself tiny comforts:

Hot tea,

My cozy red bathrobe,

Thermostat set at a decadent 72 degrees,

Thelonious Monk or Miles Davis on Pandora.

It takes patience

To settle into the

Experience

Of the daily practice of writing.

And strangely enough,

It’s the disappointments

(Two novels, not even published let alone

Best-sellers)

And a little suffering

(Drunkenness and then the bracing sobriety journey)

That have given me this

Patience gift.

Writing novels takes the ability to both

Be in the moment,

And have the long view.

I can sustain both best in the early morning quiet

Of my candle-lit dining room,

My family sleeping around me.

In the soundtrack to my life,

This scene of me starting to write novels again

Would be set to

“Fire On The Mountain,”

Grateful Dead:

Long distance runner, what you holdin’ out for?
Caught in slow motion in a dash for the door.
The flame from your stage has now spread to the floor
You gave all you had. Why you wanna give more?
The more that you give, the more it will take
To the thin line beyond which you really can’t fake.

Fire! Fire on the mountain!

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Hello, have we met before?: A night with my old journals

I was paging through my old journals

The other night.

1987 (13 years old)

To the present.

A couple times I chuckled

A couple times I cringed:

The obsessions and

Vapid concerns of the

Teenage or early-20s

Me.

Declarations of love to

High school boyfriends;

Gut-twisting fears of

Friends turning on me.

And booze running through like a

Narrow, toxic river.

Who was that person?

That girl-woman

Flailing forward–

I did move forward despite the booze–

Functional, they call it.

I suppose I’m the same person,

Really.

Leaner and more

Focused.

Quieter in my neuroses,

Or more deliberate about sharing them

(Like starting a blog!)

Not quite as naive about

Love–

Although I still surprise myself.

And the booze river?

Dried up.

The river bed still cutting through,

Permanent and available;

A tender scar.

Writing in Helsinki

My second book I wrote in Helsinki.

We had a one-bedroom apartment

Above a YMCA,

And our windows looked out on

Snowy pine trees.

The entryway to our apartment was a

U-shaped staircase with a landing,

And above the landing was a huge window and wide window sill.

I would sit in the window sill and paint wine bottles.

For writing,

I would move the rocking chair to the top of the staircase

So I was facing the window and the snowy trees,

The stairs falling away below me.

It gave the illusion that the

Room

Had

No

Floor,

Like I was floating toward the

Snowy pine trees

With my notebook in my lap

And a pen entwined in my fingers.

I finished that book in a different apartment.

Less geometrical.

But by then I was

Pregnant,

And my growing belly gave the space

The dimension it needed.

I finished the novel Aug. 20

And my son was born Aug. 22.

Creating, creating.

Learning to write in Seattle

My first book I wrote in Seattle.

I was living in an apartment on a hill above downtown.

There was a view of Lake Union from the bathroom window.

I would pack my swimming gear and my

Laptop into my backpack and

Glide down the hill on my bike

Into downtown.

I would swim laps in the small basement pool at the YMCA,

Then go across the street to the public library.

I’d find my study carrel,

Usually the same one on the second floor,

And set up:

Laptop, CD player,

A secret snack in the backpack at my feet.

The library was full of homeless people.

Homeless men, boys, girls.

Gutter punks who rode the rails to this corner of our nation.

The young boys and girls

Pierced and tattooed and tired and wary under

Black sweatshirt hoods.

The older men were ragged and bearded in

Dusty military fatigues.

I’d see the same ones often.

They would put their heads down on the desk

For a few minutes of sleep before a security guard would

Nudge them awake.

I would look up,

Pausing to ruminate, and

Consider these folks.

They felt like my co-workers.

If I ever had to get up to use the bathroom,

I had to take everything with me,

Or it would be gone when I returned.

Meanwhile, the dimensions of my surroundings,

The mountain ranges to the east and west,

The narrow plunges and curves of the city streets,

Helped frame up the space I’d made for myself

For writing.

Where I will find the time

Story

And time.

Those are the twin

Concerns

Of writing a book.

Just as important as the writer’s stew of

Plot, character, inspiration

Is the laborer’s

Commitment to producing words on paper.

Which takes

Time.

Always for me,

The two develop on parallel planes in my head:

The story, and

My writing schedule.

How my daily activities will shift and settle around the

Writing time.

I suppose it’s a

Left brain/

Right brain thing.

What would a week look like

With one hour

Carved out of each

Day

For writing?

I am resigned to taking it out of

Mornings.

To waking up early.

Say 5 a.m.

(Some people do that anyway.)

In the dark and quiet house:

Half-hour of yoga to get some

Fresh air

Moving through the limbs and brain.

Then the writer’s

Solitude.

The thing is,

Time,

Is a limited resource.

If one hour is taken

Here,

One hour must be given,

Somewhere else.

Pillaging my sleep is not an option

I need my straight eight

So it will have to be

Earlier nights.

Farmer’s hours.

I like to go to bed early.

I like to sleep.

So I think

I hope

It will work.

You never know until you start,

And do it for a few days and weeks.

Will this schedule take?

We’ll see.

Earplugs: Can’t live without ’em, can’t live without ’em.

I like to think of myself as rather an

Earplug connoisseur.

As a mom,

I’m not going for

Utter silence

But rather a

Generalized muffling

Through which

Crying, screaming, etc., can be

Noted,

But perhaps ignored.

The best kind

Are these

Clear chunks of wax

You press into the

Cup of your ear.

You know you have an air-tight seal when

You start to

Hear

Yourself

Breathe.

It’s weird,

I know.

Baffling to those who are

Not afflicted.

But once you start talking to people,

You find others.

“Earplug addicts,” we call ourselves,

Although it’s not really true,

Because people who call themselves “addicts” are

Usually trying to recover,

And we’re

Definitely not.

We are the ones who

Know all of the 24-hour pharmacies in our neighborhood,

For making bedtime trips down the

Fluorescent-lit aisles

Straight to the earplug rack

We know exactly where it is

Because we

Can’t

Sleep

Without

Earplugs.

All the little noises in the house:

The furnace turning on and off;

The snoring;

The thumps of the cat jumping,

(Except we don’t have a cat);

How could anyone sleep

Without earplugs?

Oh,

It is lovely at the end of the day,

The children settled,

The husband otherwise occupied,

To lie back against a pile of pillows in bed,

A book on my lap,

And press the wax chunks into my ears,

And turn

Completely

Inward.

And in the morning

(If my family allows it)

I leave the plugs in for a little while

So I can flicker silently into the day,

Like a just-lit candle.

But then,

The muffled thumping of

Small feet on stairs:

I turn,

And am rewarded with the best

(Silent)

Vision of all:

A small boy with sleep-rumpled hair

Trailing a blanket and clutching a stuffed kitten,

One leg of his pajamas hitched up to the knee,

The other booted over the sweet foot.

One more silent breath,

And then the earplugs

Come

Out.

Vertical writing (not poetry)

I want to tell you

Why

I write this blog

Vertically.

I feels it wants some

Explanation.

It looks like a

Formatting

Error.

But it’s not.

I wrote like this

As a girl

In my journals.

(I never called them

“Diaries.”)

I wrote like this

Because I like how it

Emphasizes

Words

If I want it to.

I wrote like this for

Many years

In my girl’s bedroom in

High school.

In my semi-adult

College apartment

Bedrooms.

This is how I

Wrote.

More

Down

Than across.

I never called it

Poetry.

Sometimes I called it

Verse.

To distinguish from

Prose.

And I think

It works

In this medium.

The Internet.

I think

Down,

Vertical,

Scrollable on a smartphone

Works.

So I wonder:

Could the practice of poetry

And verse

Surge

On smartphones

And break

Like a wave?

It would be

Lovely.