Thursday, October 21, 2010

With A Little Help From My Friends

Writing is supposed to be this solitary thing, and while the act of writing certainly is, I think it's easy for people to underestimate the importance friends are to a writer's writing process.

I've been on a streak lately, tearing up the laptop with page after page of holy-shit-worthy prose. I mean, I go back and read what I've written and want to do the touchdown dance. It just flat out kicks ass, and there's no other way to put it. I say this in a completely detached and impersonal way, because when I write, as I've said before, it's a very out-of-body, woo-woo-inducing experience. I frequently have a reaction like "Did I actually write that?" when I go back and re-read my work, because it's too good to have come out of my under-developed little brain. You now how you write a paper that is so well-argued that it just screams at you THIS IS AN A+! Or you go take an exam, and walk out knowing you nailed it. That is the way I feel about this book. Even if it never gets published, it's the type of writing I've always wanted to do--and that makes it feel like a success to me.

But I say this knowing that I am not responsible for this sudden burst of happy-writing mojo. My friends can take the credit for most of it.

A couple of weeks ago, on the way home from Salem, we stopped by my friend Miranda's house--who lives on the outskirts of Boston. She is one of the coolest, most entirely with-it, creatively inspiring people I know. Her house looks like a modern art museum--and she'll casually point to a Guggenheim-worthy painting on the wall. "My mom did that one.... That's my grandfather's.... This one's mine..." Her writing, too, is splendid, and I'm pretty sure she's musically talented as well. In other words, she's legitimate. The real thing. An Artist. What I want to be, and have wanted to be for 33 years.

I've been having a (mostly silent) pity party lately because I really thought I'd be more successful by now. Granted, one has to apply the pads of one's fingers to the keys of one's laptop (to paraphrase) and actually write something for that to occur, and what with my chaotic life in recent years, I haven't done that quite enough. And I was full of shoulda coulda wouldas and excuses, and getting pissier about it by the day. Every time I saw the little tag on my blog "This is what happens when a mom of two tries to write a novel" the word tries would stick in my craw. Was my blog going to end up like some absurdist theater piece where there was a whole lot of talking, but then absolutely nothing happens in the end? Now don't get me wrong--I love absurdist theater. I identify very strongly with absurdist theater. I even like to write absurdist theater. But it was time to get off the merry-go-round.

I was sitting talking to Miranda, complaining (like always) about how hard it was to produce anything ever--and she's sitting there, clucking sympathetically at me, and makes all those nice friend-supporting gestures, but I notice that her eyes are starting to glaze a little. And I hear her (in my head) screaming what I would scream to myself, if I were sitting across the table from me, "Oh just shut up and quit writing then. If it's such an ordeal. Spare us all the soul-sucking drama and take up a new hobby."

And since I have a great deal of respect for Miranda, and want to be like her in terms of artistic output one of the cool artsy kids (minus the painting and music, because seriously, I have NO other artistic abilities), I gave this (imaginary?) conversation between us a lot of thought. I tell Tom frequently that if he used the time he spends complaining about something to just go ahead and do something about it, we'd all be a whole lot happier. So I started taking my own advice for a change. I sat down one night while he was bathing the boys, and told myself, "You are a novelist, no excuses. Write something." And lo and behold, it worked.

It always good to have friends who are much cooler than you to help you aspire to greatness. But it's also good to have the other kind of friend, too--the friend that makes you feel perfectly cool already. I can't begin to tell you how much something as seemingy insignificant as a blog comment means to me. Obviously blogs are a window into my inner world, and some are more intimate than others, but there are a lot of things I don't write about on here because, honestly, who wants their pathetic whining preserved for posterity in cyberspace? So on days when I'm internally whining, but externally blogging about something else, and I get a comment about how much someone enjoys my blog, or thought something I said was funny, for me, it's the equivalent of carwheels and waving pompoms.

So for those of you cheering me on- Thanks! You inspire me more than you'll ever know.


  1. i'm really happy you're having a burst write!

    miranda's house is pretty amazing, and her generational creativity, too.

    don't you dare say you have no other creative talent, because you are a skilled embroiderer and creatively budget and parent and on and on....

  2. You're one of the artsy cool kids I want to be like. (minus the kids, because I am not, and should never be responsible for little lives for more than a weekend.) I'm thrilled the novel is going well, and I love the fact that after all this time your blog, facebook, and the magic of cyberworld has made us a kind of friends again.

  3. ok seriously, you have more followers than I have ever seen. That means you are good at it!! I love your writing technique and creativity. Keep it up!

  4. Thanks guys! :-)

    And Michelle and Christie, I'm sooo glad to have reconncted with you both after all these years.

  5. lol....I assure you that my eyes were NOT glazing over -- or if they were, it was only to do with insufficient sleep -- nothing to do with the content of our conversation, which I much enjoyed. That said, if imagining my internal judgment provides motivation, then who am I to set the record straight? Your writing is flowing, and I'm thrilled for you.

    Speaking of our wonderful visit, can I post a picture of your lovely poem to Studio Mothers?

  6. Sure Miranda! Be my guest! :-)

  7. Hi Brittany! This is my frst visit. Before I go look for that poem mentioned, I just want to say this blog piece is wonderful - so easy to read. It just flows along, and delightfully so. As you undoubtedly know, all those self doubts and bashings, are all too familiar to all of us aspiring creators. Just keep going. (Love the little boys in the dog crate!)


I love your comments! They make my day.


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