Thursday, April 14, 2011


I've had the flu. The transition to freelance is a bitch. I should be copyediting. I should be updating my website, facebook. I should be working on the database. The dishes/laundry/housework need doing.

I've been trained well in a sense of obligation. Not so good at execution, but I wear my guilt like a cape, a superhero of self-recrimination. Like it makes a difference.

Ask me what is the most important thing I could be doing right now, and my answer is writing. So why are so many hours of my day spent doing anything but? Because I have no looming deadline. Because nobody is tapping a foot, waiting for the next chapter of my novel. Because other little tasks push in, promising a bubble of effort and then it's done. And then I can write. But another task is behind the first, and then another, like needy children.

Because of the fear. Because I didn't get a Stegner fellowship. Because I look over my novel in progress, the best thing I've written to date, and it wasn't good enough to get me a Stegner. Because the suspicion wells up that I'm fooling myself, hearing only what I want to hear, that I'll never be good enough. Because I make the awful mistake of reading other writers write about writing, and I think, if I'm not doing that, maybe I'm not a real writer.

I picture a crowd of people focused on me, expecting something. Expecting perfection, greatness. A perfect copyedit. A perfect database. A perfect girlfriend, hostess, friend. A perfect novel.

But that's just ego. Nobody gives me that much thought, nobody expects perfection.

I have to get outside, be in the crowd, see other people being the heroes of their own stories, and then it all quiets down. Let ego and the thousand tasks float away in their bubbles and I can come back to what matters. And then the words flow.

The bus driver with her newly-waved hair falling over her shoulders. The woman in office wear, carefully carrying a paper plate of food covered with another paper plate. The man on a bluetooth headset talking exuberantly, stepping out from every curb, waiting for the light to change so he can hurry across the street, light on his feet as a dancer. Where I am anonymous, my eyes as big as the block, the city, the whole world, seeing everything I can.

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