Last night a student in my writing class at David Yellin College asked me about blogging. Her question reminded me how delinquent I’ve been towards my faithful blog readers. Months ago I promised to keep you posted about my (re)new(ed) commitment to the writing life. Here’s the long and the short of it.
Having a writing room is glorious. I call it My Soul Room. While in Cleveland in late Sept., I yearned for it. While in Manhattan in early Oct., I fantasized about it. When I returned to Israel on Oct. 4th, I felt at peace. My room welcomed me, its bare white tiled floor, its bare white walls, its collapsible table covered with an Indian floral print from Nachlat Binyamin, its desk with a lectern that supports my laptop so I can stand and work, its used Ikea chair (dirty white fabric, birch frame), its clean white sink, cupboards full of Madjool dates, raisins, walnuts, rye crackers, its dirty empty fridge, the deck that overlooks a plant nursery, a deep blue lobelia that didn’t die while I was gone.
I collapsed into my Ikea chair and opened the book I bought at the gift store of the J.P. Morgan Library—The Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin (Viking, 2012). What a book! Nobody writes like the Irish. (My Hungarian grandmother, when watching the good guys beat up the bad guys on TV westerns, used to say Give it to him, he’s Irish.)
I made order in the memoir I’ve been working on for the past months (years. . . decades). But then, Yikes. I allowed myself to get derailed. An agent from a Manhattan agency looking for Anglo-Israeli writers put out a feeler on CIWI, a forum for Connecting Independent Writers in Israel. I fell into this trap. I sent her the first two chapters of my manuscript. She read them and passed on seeing the whole manuscript when it would be completed in 2014 (?) 2015 (?).
Passing pierces the ego with less force than rejecting. I did not fall apart, as I might have done a few years ago, or even a few months ago before I had a writing room. I did not wail, think myself worthless, my writing mundane. I told myself, Judy, you should not allow yourself to be distracted by the marketplace and the glamour of a NY agent. Just keep writing.
The agent, in her kind “passing” email, sent a synopsis of the first two chapters. As I read this document I thought, of course they don’t want to see the whole manuscript. Neither would I. Who wants to read about a middle-aged woman who realizes she’s angry at her mother and seeks a therapist. BORing. Even if it does start in a cistern and alludes to the Joseph story.
I ditched that opening and when my head was full of Toibin’s sentences and musings of Mary the mother of Jesus, I started anew. Now I have an opening that dazzles, but I’m not sharing it with anyone until I finish the whole manuscript (2016? 2017?).
I’m spending 2-4 hours in my writing room, 3-6 days a week. This is perfect for me. I have found my space and my pace and to Hell with those who say you should wake up at 5 and work til noon.
I am amazed by my own desire to get up and be in the room right after my morning cup of hot water with lemon, my bowl of oatmeal and millet, and short exercise routine of Yoga and Chi Quong. I don’t even check emails before I leave the house, because I know that will pull me in. Sometimes I walk to the room (seven minutes) and sometimes, when I have to go shopping after the writing session, I drive my little car. Half the time I sit at the collapsible table and rewrite by hand; the other half I stand and either compose or type in the rewrites. I enjoy standing to write. Naturally, I wear a good pair of New Balance walking shoes and curve my pelvis downward, a la Chi Quong, my knees slightly bent. I share these details because you are the only people in the world who could possibly want to know this nitty-gritty information.
Lest you think all is idyllic, though, don’t worry. Don’t be jealous. I’m always having to shoo away the local cats, dogs and spiders, as well as the nasty thoughts that I have passed my writing prime, that I should be demonstrating to End the Occupation, studying Torah or Arabic, doing good deeds in the community or cleaning my house. It’s a constant struggle to keep these voices at bay.
Allow me to wish you all a joyous Kislev. May the year be full of no more vacations, sickness, accidents, deaths, or natural disasters and may we all learn to enjoy and nurture a glorious writing routine that, in its inception, is fragile as a young bud.
Judy, I am grinning after having read your entry. You brought me into your room and let me peer at your space, your props, and your journey. Thank you. Have a wonderful winter, writing.
Thanks, Andrew. Stop by at The Writing Pad when you want to get off Highway One.
How interesting that we both posted on our blogs yesterday, after a long hiatus (mine longer than yours, I think).
To paraphrase a remark by a friend’s aged aunt (Getting old ain’t for sissies), writing ain’t for sissies.
But you have what it takes.
Thanks, Esther. I wish I could be as sure about that as you seem to be.
I’m doing NaNoWriMo – http://nanowrimo.org/about – 50,000 words of fiction in 30 days – which I started with barely an idea for a character, let alone a plot, and wasn’t sure I could keep up with for even a single day, and, lo and behold, today is Day 5, i have written 8391 words, at a steady daily average of 1778, which should carry me to the target word count exactly on deadline, and all while keeping to my goal of finishing by 10 a.m. every day. So, wherever this does or doesn’t go, it’s already been an adventure.
Good luck, Shosh. I’m rooting for you.