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On Writing and Other People You Think of Something to Write,...

By Shannawilson @shanna_wilson
On Writing and Other People

You think of something to write,...

On Writing and Other People

You think of something to write, but then it evaporates into the shower steam by morning. You think its probably already been said anyway, you just haven’t read it yet. You sit at your desk, or your table, or in your bed, with a laptop and a pen, or a cat, or a tea and wonder what the desks and beds and tables of every other writer in the world look like.

You want to tell the people something profound. You knew all about it first, the uprisings, the downturns, in Egypt and on Wall Street. You stood with the occupiers in your mind, and screamed from the megaphone, “Occupy THIS.” You hope people understand what you’re saying, or what you aren’t saying. You have no idea what you’re talking about. You wonder how other people do.

You read dead novelists. To be a writer, read. You wish you were Harper Lee in the late 1950’s. You had some shit to say back then, before you were born. “Atticus, are we poor?” You were poor growing up, and now you’re ok, but you feel like you’ll always be poor, and one day you’ll be homeless. You hold no weight that your “great American anything” will ever sustain you or your future progeny. Even if that thing is a 9-5 job or a winning Powerball.

You have all these other people in your life, but they’re in digitized thumbnails on Facebook and LinkedIn, their lives perfectly turned out with babies and business degrees, and spouses and “local community.” Some of your friends are now stay-at-home moms. You wonder if they’ll start a dead end business selling make-up or hosting purse parties. You hope they don’t do that. You’ll secretly laugh if they do. How did Lena Dunham make so much happen so fast? Are you jealous that she has talent, or does she just have connections and huge balls? You deconstruct it.

You read Colson Whitehead’s advice for writers in the New York Times about getting in knife fights and contracting parasites in developing countries, if only for the fever dreams. You had a fever dream or two, in a developing country once or twice, but came up short. You were too busy wondering if you’d be dead by morning.

You lived, and went back to the first world, where the sheer proximity of Western doctors made you feel safe. Your parasite swam back out to sea, flushed down the infinite well of the world’s waste system, and maybe along with the fever dreams of other fellow writers. If that’s what you call yourself, because it seems intangible, unlike being called an engineer or chiropractor. You don’t feel envy for the people who are engineers or chiropractors because your hearts not in machinery. You’re glad for them, and for yourself. You belong among the stacks, interpreting the world, even if no one cares, which mostly, no one does. You do. You want to connect with someone who stands on the same rock you stand on, with its Matisse paintings floating above you and all the words and meaning beside you.

On the days you feel less intelligent, you crack a copy of Auden’s poems or William Stafford, and you feel kinship with someone you’ve never met. You think of all the people in your life who inspired you, the piano teachers and fellow travelers and you realize you’ve been a nomad for over half your life. When someone says where are you from, you’re not really sure. You don’t feel connected to any specific place, and that’s your story. But probably not the one you’ll write. You don’t want to be a novelist, because you want to write truth, even though there’s more truth in most novels than there are in most memoirs. Which reminds you to be pissed that so many pop singers have biographies represented by Random House and Penguin.

You want to find meaningful work, and your place in it. Which a wise guy named Brian told you, “We all want the same thing.” Which is to be ok. And you think you might be. You still have time to write everything down. You’ll try not to take too long.

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