Tag Archives: writing

august (over)

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B says that the way we feel now, frustrated and narrow and impotent, is because summer is the time for expansion. We are ruminating, we are kicking at doors, we are imagining how things could be different, but fall is the time to put  newness in place. They say this while we are standing in the garden, which is wet because we have watered it, not because it has rained.

***

In the lobby of a Korean spa in New Jersey, I buy a tiny cup of coffee for 50 cents. The machine delivers it politely, no splattering, and it tastes exactly how I want all coffee to taste: sweet, and light but assuredly caffeinated. We walk up the hill from the spa to catch the bus back to the city, and it arrives before we do, so we run to catch it. The coffee swishes out of the cup, and I throw the whole thing into the street before I reach the bus. On the way home, I think about how being in the saunas was the opposite of what I expected – restorative instead of maddening, how for a little while I wasn’t sure if what was coming from my eyes was sweat or tears, and it was okay not being able to tell the difference.

***

My grandmother said I was screaming before I was even born, that you could hear me from inside the birth canal. I don’t know if this is an insult, a fact, or both.  

***

In Jerusalem, many years ago, I lost a USB drive with a large document on it, along with several pens. I  rode a bike down a mountain. I went with a girl to urgent care, Terem, it’s called, after she spent the whole night throwing up and hoping it would pass. They rehydrated her  intravenously.  I waited with her, I asked her questions about her family, and what she liked to read. She didn’t need me there. She already had what she needed. Fluids.

***

I grew up in a loud house, where when I thought I heard yelling, I was usually right. We had a television in every room, but the sounds of slamming doors and breaking dishes always came from a person who was real, breathing, occupying space.

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H owns a house in a small town upstate, with wooden beams and long hallways and a kitchen full of lemons and light. She did her time, she said, in New York City, and now she’s here, making this house over into another version of itself.

***

I live in a noisy city now. I’ve chosen it, again and again, over places others might consider easier and kinder.  The noise is part of the city’s appeal. Here, when there is noise, I know it’s coming from the street, from cars, from humans who aren’t looking for me.

***

In August, I drink water from mason jars packed with ice and slices of cucumber and lime. Good for metabolism, I hear, but also, it’s the only way I’ll drink enough water.  I wear shorts I cut from jeans, covered in splotches of white paint from when we changed the colors of the kitchen cabinets from dark to light, opening the whole room. I water the garden. I think about summers in my loud house, when I’d sit behind my grandmother’s enormous tapestry rocking chair all day, writing stories in spiral notebooks, dripping sweat and waiting out the heat.

 

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truth

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There are two parts of me writing this book: the one who spends an hour trying to make a paragraph, and the one who writes text messages for imaginary people, and the whole trick is knowing that I need both.

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“not like a fever, like a second heart” (louise gluck)

Last night I made cinnamon raisin toast and coffee and took it upstairs to eat it in my kind little room with the door closed. I’m always more optimistic at night. Everything feels more clear and more possible.

There are these  little stories I promised myself I’d write but have not yet. I’m thinking too much about first lines and then getting this flat feeling when I do, because the lines aren’t right yet, they’re not enough. I know when a line is enough by now, I know when it spins out and crackles, the way I like it. 

P and I were talking about feeling sorry for people who don’t make stuff, who don’t have that weird burn inside them constantly, about how they are considerably less lucky than us.

This cat I’m hanging out with likes to push her head against  water glasses until either they fall over or you take them away from her. All she wants in life is to snuggle with this glass and for it to snuggle back. Or maybe she wants something else, which I’m misunderstanding entirely.

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difficulties being in public

I am a terrible, odious person when I am not writing. Last night, someone said to me, “Fiction is so easy, right? I mean, compared to non fiction?” And I thought, I invite you to find all the ways possible  to go and fuck yourself, because fiction writing is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, and that includes the illnesses and deaths of immediate family members.

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a reminder

“There are no shortcuts, and no one can write this book but you.”

Jami Attenberg 

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it is like this

I read a blog post the other day by a dude who wrote every day for 367 days straight. If he had 20 minutes, he said, he could write 500 words. I can’t even imagine it. I’m writing these stories that feel like the center of everything, the tenderest of underbellies of this whole thing I’m making, and I am terrified. If I have 20 minutes, I spend it staring at the sentences I’ve made and trying to summon the next one, and worrying that it is really not the sentence I want, but of course, you don’t know things like that until you’ve written the next sentence, and then the one after that. It’s easy to write myself into a place I don’t really mean, just so I can keep going, and then I have to back up, rewrite, try again, and consider if what I wrote before was actually what I meant, maybe the thing that feels the most urgent is the thing you mean the most, or maybe it’s the thing you’re hanging on the most tightly to, because at least it’s a thing you have, and so much of writing is feeling grateful that anything at all has appeared. I read another thing once about how being in despair is about abandoning God, but really, it’s those moments when you can’t hang onto the knowledge that this is part of it, it always happens, and you will always see the other side.

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Susan Orlean on writing

“It’s private. The energy of it is so intense and internal, it sometimes makes you feel like you’re going to crumple. A lot of it happens invisibly. When you’re sitting at your desk, it looks like you’re just sitting there, doing nothing.”

(More here.)

 

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katherine bernard on freelancing, writing and space

“After coffee comes work. That fluidity between working or not is a constant struggle, particularly for a freelancer. In one sense, it’s always a work day, but you have to define what work means. You can take it two ways——either everything is work and adds to your creative process or none of it is work and there’s no tinge of stress. I still don’t have it figured out, so my workday starts when I have my computer in my lap and the silence descends. If I wake up with someone, of course, it’s beautiful to talk with them in the morning, but most days “Can I have an iced coffee please?” are all the words I’ll say to another person until nighttime.

The light in my room is very important to me. In a way, it’s kind of like my office mate. It has its moods. Sometimes it’s inspiring, and other times I’m like, “get the fuck out of my face.”

When you’re a writer you have to sit in your house a lot, so you have to take account for how things look in your space. It’s douchey having a blue candle and a blue book, but this is all I look at, truly, in this room, so it does feel important to treat it like a sanctuary. This space is the first space that I made my own, knowing that I spend the majority of my time in my room. I feel invested in its surfaces. Again, hearing those words——“invested in its surfaces”——come out of my mouth makes me want to… but no, it’s true. Like me and that table, that marble desk I made, we are tighter than any two people.”

(Read the rest here.)

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advice (jami attenberg)

What I’m doing lately is writing on my iphone and emailing little bits of a new story to myself. Which is weird because I’ve never done that before. I’ve re-written the first sentence five times. I’ve got all these short emails with no subject line, just the same first sentence in the body, with the words slightly different each time.

Also I have a small green moleskine and I was making notes in it while I was driving. I can’t bring myself to look at it because I’m pretty sure it’s a mess and I’ll never be able to decipher it, and then I’ll get sad because of all those lost ideas. But anyway I am writing some fiction and that’s good.

Earlier today a friend of mine was upset because she’d been sitting at the library for hours and had gotten nothing done all day. She was sad about someone she loved who had passed away, that was the real story. It was his birthday and she missed him. It was getting in the way of her writing, and all she wanted to do was write. She’s the real deal, she gets it, she knows that the work is what carries you from one place to another. It’s your thruline.

I told her I was done talking to her, that she had to write 250 words, and then she would have done something with her day. Then she would feel better. “Bye,” I said. “xoxo.”  Later in the afternoon she emailed me and said she had written 167 words so far.

Now I have to write 250 words tomorrow. I tell her to do it, I remind myself to do it, I’m telling you to do it, too. 250 words. That’s all you have to write to have done something with your day.

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