I have always valued ceremony. Believed that some designated hour or day—say midnight on New Year’s Eve, or the morning of my birthday—might usher in a whole new me. I am embarrassed to count the decades this thinking had me. I’ve certainly lost track of the hours and days and events I hoped would do. But a life spent waiting is a shadow life.
A distraction that diverts as the real thing passes by.
There’s a poem by Eleanor Lermin called Starfish (from Our Post-Soviet History Unfolds, 2005), that I like—the first stanza especially. It reads:
“This is what life does. It lets you walk up to
the store to buy breakfast and the paper, on a
stiff knee. It lets you choose the way you have
your eggs, your coffee. Then it sits a fisherman
down beside you at the counter who says, last night
the channel was full of starfish. And you wonder,
is this a message, finally, or just another day?”
At 56, I’m working to finish my first novel. It’s been accepted for publication by Blank Slate Press. Even as I write this, my fingers do a shy dodge on the keys, as if to warn me off the telling, lest I tempt the furies, or wake myself from this dream—this thing I always wanted. This chance.
My magical thinking is not dismissed so much as redirected. There was no circled date on a calendar, no ritual of preparation. There was, instead, an email. An email I could have missed. It announced a gathering. Followed by a lunch. And a question: “Do you have a manuscript you’d like to share?” And I went reckless: sent out the work I had not finished, but could not leave. Life is more slippery than we dare to know. It is not enough to wait for life to happen.
Nor is it enough to write a novel. Writers must market too. And so, on the advice of Blank Slate Press, I’ve begun this blog. I want to be clear: This is my very first blog entry—ever. I’m not a person who sends instant messages, or texts. I do not add comments to online posts. My cellphone doesn’t have a camera. Truth told, when not traveling for business, I may go two weeks and not bother to turn it on.
It’s not that I don’t value technology: I spend hours each day on a computer. I am in awe of the Internet. And a week-long hike in Yosemite a few years back gave me a renewed appreciation for the conveniences of urban life. But I believe that much of this technology is distraction. In the extreme, our devices not only take us away from one another, but away from ourselves.
Yet, in this world of noise and clutter, I still want to be heard. So I’m adding my clicks to the cacophony to make my case.
In this blog I’ll focus mostly on writing. I’ll share work and resources that I find valuable. And I welcome input from you.
For years I’ve tortured myself at writers’ readings—hardly daring to ask what I most want to know: What is it like? How do you do it? What can you tell someone starting out? I’ll tell you the answers from my own experience. And I plan to find writers who will share their insights too.
I would rather you know me through my writing. Because in my writing you will find my truest self. The self that sees the world a particular way—a self changed by that experience.
There are starfish in the channel. This is not “just another day.”
the thunderstorm and power outage here tonight almost kept me from this amazing discovery of your first blog entry! your words read just beautifully on my iPhone in the dark! I am so excited and totally hooked! count me “IN” for the adventure… CONGRATULATIONS DEAR ANENE!!! we ALL applaud this unchartered quest!!!
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That was beautiful. I, too, have a kind of love/hate relationship with technology. But today, I get to talk to my friend from 20 plus years ago and it is like the clock never moved. I like that. My hospice experience changed my perspective about waiting for the right time. It is elusive and never a sure thing. Savor this moment, and wring all the life you can from it. You are doing that. I love it. I am so excited for you. It’s not about the book, it’s about the adventure of getting there. Thanks for sharing. If this doesn’t work out, you can always take up quilting. 😉 Love you, Kathy
What a lovely and spirtual blog. I completely identified with your thoughts and am inspired too to live a life that’s not a shadow. Thanks!
I, too, am drawn to the power of magical thinking. Unfortunately, its power rests in the physics of inertia. Staying at rest is much easier than being–or starting to be–in motion. And it is much less frightening. There is safety in dreaming, danger in doing. Because inertia also means that once an object is in motion it stays in motion…and once you start rolling, there’s no telling where you’ll end up. Exciting. Thrilling. Bloodcurdlingly (?) scary. But there’s no turning back now.
Congratulations…your success is so inspirational to this aspiring writer. Jeff S. put me onto your blog!
By random chance, I had a very old story find its way into an anthology to be published this year…also an inspiration to take up longer writing again.
I have a dear friend, Jen Violi, who workshopped writing with me years back–she is just coming out of the final revisions for her first novel, which will be published next year. She’s a wonderfully funny and fresh writer–do check her out if you get the chance… http://www.jenvioli.com/
So glad to see you prospering! Can’t wait to read the book. My best to Jim.
Dear Anene: I happened across your blog because Starfish is my poem. It’s several years old now and when I wrote it, I thought I was sending those little creatures drifting off into infinity, but apparently they had a lot of stops to make along the way. What I mean is that I am constantly astonished and gratified by how that one poem seems to speak to people, and I’m so glad that the starfish found you, too. I’m 58, so I certainly understand the journey you’re on through the new world that writers nowadways find themselves in: you’re absolutely correct that it’s no longer enough to simply sit alone in your room and struggle with the writing itself, once that’s done you do have to work with publishers to market your work in any and every way you can. So good luck with the blog, good luck with the novel, and keep going!
Anene, this is so beautiful!