I’m Talkin’ ‘Bout Dat Writin’

First, let me say: I am the worst.

Show me an honest, self-aware writer who’s never had that thought, and I will…be flabbergasted at their level of confidence and self-importance, actually.

But really, I’m the worst. I’m a writer, even when I didn’t say it. Even when I put my name to things, I didn’t really talk about it. When friends mentioned it, I assumed it was pity praise and a testament to our bond more than anything.

That assumption’s done. For better or for worse, this is my fate. I might as well embrace it, cause it’s not going away.

I delight in reading suggestions for writers. It’s cool, it’s romantic, it’s got that je ne sais quoi. Of course you want to write your personal opus. And you want it to be the best. Mediocrity isn’t in your vocabulary–which is superb. You know the person you are meant to be. Fill yourself up with that good good, those magic tips that’ll land you on the bestsellers’ list, get on college syllabi, earn yourself tenure. When people say your name they’ll say “You mean the writer?” Yasss, I love some good writing tip porn.

My biggest dream is to have that writer’s space they always talk about (a room of one’s own…sorry, I had to). Squeezing in a bit of typing on lunch breaks, after work on an uneven couch, or stomach side on a bed before a nap just doesn’t give the craft the respect I feel it deserves. I make do, but my Pinterests lean toward big oak desks facing huge windows with clutches of trees outside.

Oooh, another favorite is to set aside time every day to write. That right there is a fabulous life. I’m childless and unmarried, but finding time away from Star Trek reruns, Amazon surfing, last-minute brunch dates and darts to the corner store for last-minute tea? That’s gonna be a problem. But how colorful and quaint a concept: Muting all influences except your mind’s own, preferably staring out the window of your London pied-à-terre, a perfectly warm mug of tea to one side, a stack of completely legible notes to the other. Sixty. minutes. every. day.

Now lemme tell you how I get down.

blackhandwriting

 

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Workshopping: It Ain’t for Kids

So every several months I think of my different writing workshops, what I’ve gained, friends I’ve made, others who have vanished after half a session…The whole shebang. For the most part I’ve been great with taking criticism, critiquing others (I think), and making sure that even if what I’m reading is garbage, I can give the writer some sort of positive takeaway. That’s the way it works.

Then there was Flight. I’m giggling just thinking about it, because I don’t think I take myself too seriously and my experience is one writers, or anyone who thinks they’re just killing it, goes through.

I thought this one out. Did a proper first draft and all. Short story shorter, a college-age teen is off to visit her divorced dad in another state and is stopped at airport security. Turns out a prized keepsake is on the Prohibited Items list and, refusing to give it up, she doesn’t board the plane. Turns out mom waited outside, expecting this change in plans.

Having gotten wildly good feedback on my last effort, I was vaguely sure this would go over as well. (btw, I still keep all my typed & handwritten comments from colleagues in a special box; I keep saying I’d like to type it all out one day when really, seeing the mode of communication and personal handwriting is what pulls me back, pleasantly, in time.)

This is where I start chuckling. After a week, I sauntered into this living room like, boom, where’s my deal? Where’s U Iowa begging me to lecture? What’s up? I downplayed this because no one likes an arrogant person & it’s not really in my nature, but I felt I was in a zone.

“And now, I’d like Nira’s primary reader to begin a synopsis of her work.”

This is where the smugness started to melt away. Kindly, politely, and with absolute concrete examples and conscious criticism, my fellow workshoppers began to detail how awful this story was. It was the voice, their tone of voice that did it; it was the tone I’d given a teen kid once who’d brought in a story about killer clowns in the suburbs and was never heard from again.

black woman typing

 

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The Write-Off

Do you write? Cause I write.

I want to first be perfectly clear: I still need help and am still lost. But I still enjoy writing. I love it even more if someone besides me likes it. So why don’t I do it more often?

Who knows. Excuses. I’m stressed. Writers’ block. I need a real job. It’s tough to get over the “I’m not gonna be famous overnight” thing. The usual. Life. And then there’s the constant beckoning of social media, where I often write at length (the book of the face and Twitter, if you’re into that).

I love language. I use the dictionary every day. That’s what it’s there for. I don’t have a photographic memory. In the 3rd or 4th grade I burst into tears because I couldn’t master restaurant (resteraunt, surely!). I’m either excited to know I nailed it, or excited that I caught an error in the making. The thesaurus is another best friend. I’ve been using one since…I can’t remember, only that the highlighter soaked through the pages and it eventually lost its covers. Words are a-MAZING. Reading a good book can make me squirm. Finishing a great book might leave me in stunned silence. All it takes is that one well-worked sentence, the one with the offbeat rhythm, and the colorful but succinct description that takes you exactly to the author’s desired destination.

fulton streetI originally thought this would be about fiction. And I think it still will be. It’ll probably be more observational, because I now live in New Brooklyn, where Williamsburg is its own borough and I can reminisce about the days Fresh Direct wouldn’t deliver past 11205. And yet I can walk around the corner from a busy bus stop on the coldest day in 2013 (about 40 degrees) and see half-naked men praying as if in a confessional. And if I just blurted this out, you probably wouldn’t believe me (I am prone to slight exaggeration, but only when it serves the story—I promise).
 
So you’ll see me, and my stuff. I’ll pong it back and forth between social media. I’d love some artistic inspiration and am partial to visuals (photography, paintings, et al.). I finally, finally got to Rome a few years back, and anxiously got through security and was given earphones and took the fastest bathroom break ever and only then was taken on a hurried yet thorough tour of the Vatican. And I very literally gasped at the grandness, the volume of it all. There were rooms full of art the building simply could not feature due to lack of space. Some of my tour pictures were out of focus because my hands were shaking. How could I not be inspired? A week in an alcove there and I’m sure I could churn out, at the least, a decent novella.

pastel frida kahloI’ve been online a long time. So I’m used to some things that might make others wary. Like strangers chatting me up. Having long-distance Web friends. Having strangers email me, or message me, or throw out advice. It’s not weird to me, although it probably should be…mmm, nah. I mentioned in passing that I loved Frida Kahlo and within a half hour received this (left) from a stranger (well, a stranger no longer; an artist named Vaughn Filmore), who saw my post through a mutual friend; his own pastel of the artist. A blogger who emailed me weeks ago asking why I stopped writing made me ask myself, Why DID I stop writing?
 
 
So keep writing me, and I’ll write you back, and since creative people feed off one another, we’ll all be writing and swapping ideas and losing track of word counts. That’s exciting to me. I hope it is for you. So let’s just do this thing day by day and see what happens, shall we?