Writing Life

Sit in front of your computer for hours. If you only write one word, that’s ok, you wrote one word.

Subscribe to lots of literary magazines so that you can tell people that you subscribe to a lot of literary magazines, even if you are too intimidated to actually read them.

Sit in front of the computer for hours. Try to come up with your next word. Sign on to Duotrope. See who has gotten acceptances in the journals you would like to be accepted in, and which you have sitting on your nightstand, but which you still haven’t read, because you are too intimidated.

Take a one-night erotica workshop. Write a story during class. Wish that you could disappear when your classmates tell you that the story has potential, and that you should send it out. Start thinking of pen names. Wonder what your grandmother will say.

Talk with your grandmother. Discover that she would be “tickled pink” if you wrote erotica. Revise your erotic story. Briefly entertain the idea that it could spend five weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list. Think of more pen names. Think of the money. Do not send your story out.

Instead, sign up to participate in National Novel Writing Month. Serve your first day of what will be three and a half weeks of jury duty on November 1st.  

At the end of National Novel Writing Month, November, you have only 35 words, instead of your usual 50,000 words, but that is ok. Thirty-five words are better than one.

Stare at your thirty-five words. Imagine getting paid to be a permanent juror instead of a writer. You miss the ritual and the intellectual challenge of serving on a jury, the lining up in numerical order, the people standing up as you enter a room. You miss feeling needed and important. You even miss the lawyers who looked as if they had walked out of a Dickens novel. You miss how it was so cold that you had to wear a sweater and your jacket inside the courtroom.

Consider going to law school once you realize that being a permanent juror is not a realistic career path. Becoming a writer is not a realistic career path either, but you are in denial. Start researching law schools during your allotted writing time. Ask your friend, who is a writer and a lawyer, to send you any job postings for openings at Massachusetts courts. Instead of laughing in your face at your childlike enthusiasm for the American legal system, she sends you job postings from Massachusetts courts. That’s one of the many reasons why she is your friend.

A week later, when you have a total of forty-five words, sit next to someone on a plane who is reading a health law textbook. Resist the urge to tell her about your experiences on jury duty, but order a copy of that same law textbook when you arrive home. It is large and heavy and expensive and leather. Promise yourself that you will read it once you have completed a novel, even if that is a decade from now. In the meantime, your cat enjoys sitting on it. She can see you better while you are staring at your fifty-five words.

Stare at your fifty-five words. Try to keep your cat from jumping from her perch on the health law textbook to her preferred perch on top of your keyboard. Sign up for another Japanese class. Using Babelfish, translate your fifty-five words into Japanese. Decide that it’s a better fifty-five words in Japanese than it is in English. Delete it.

Get bitten by a dog. The nurse in the emergency room will makes a reference to Stephen King. Consider writing a story about getting bitten by a dog. Stare at a blank screen for hours. Do not write a story about getting bitten by a dog. Do not write anything.

Attend a fiction workshop in Ohio. In response to one of the prompts, write the first page of a story. When everyone suggests that the story could be expanded into a novel, put the page away and don’t look at it again for three years.

Take a personal day from work to attend a job fair, during which the only people getting interviews are those who majored in math or science or those who happened to bring along their fathers. Sit at a table for hours with other dejected literary types. Berate yourself because it did not occur to you, ever in your life, that maybe you should major in math or science. It also never occurred to you to bring your father to the job fair. Sigh. Stare at the clock. Attempt to converse with the other dejected writers who are picking at the yellow tablecloth and avoiding eye contact. Know with every fiber of your being that instead of waiting for someone to decide to interview you, you’d rather be writing.

Take out the one page story that you put away three years ago. Over the course of a year, write the first draft of a novel. Celebrate for a day or two. Recognize that parts of the draft have potential, but most of it should be burned immediately.

Begin the second draft. Realize that you are not getting any younger. Remember that besides being a novelist, your other dream is to become a parent. Take a break from your second draft to submit the papers necessary to begin the adoption process.

Reconsider erotica as a source of extra income.

While cleaning up your house in preparation for visits from social workers, find old drafts of stories, and remember how much fun it is to write. Promise yourself that whatever happens, you will keep writing.


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