This isn’t a riff on sun block. It’s maybe not a riff at all. Just a discovery. It’s not writer’s block that gets me. Ideas are plentiful. Low-hanging fruit. It’s just that before my fingertips brush the skin, I kill the idea. Pluck the peach, toss it to the ground. Let the squirrels finish it off.
The last writing group I attended was back in 2002. It was christened Little Red Writing Group, for Red Dress Ink. My friend and go-getter type Mari Brown had heard that Red Dress, a brand new Harlequin imprint at the time, was soliciting urban chick-lit novels for seven grand a pop, so she emailed all her friends. There were about twenty of us at first, all sitting around laughing, drinking mimosas and munching on carrots and hummus. I took some notes, blinked, and then we were four. This is how it happens sometimes. I joined the group because I couldn’t think of a good enough reason not to. And wrote Star Craving Mad.
In therapy last week—oh by the way, I quit my new daddy-figure therapist and returned to my former gal, a lovely petite Italian Jewess who’s never heard of Damages but knows who Charlize Theron is. We talk about dreams and my favorite TV shows, see. And even though it’s rule #3,257 in the earth’s handbook of what not to do, I tell you anyway: I had this dream that Charlize and I were BFF, shopping at Lancome together. Well, she was shopping, and I was watching. She spent $3,990. Shocker, right? The kicker was that I wasn’t jealous of her. AT ALL. We’re talking me and jealousy, and Charlize Theron! What a good dream that was. I was so overcome with my confidence and maturity that I ached to blog about it. Too bad she didn’t want me to. But then I woke up! Sometimes this is a good thing.
My new novel just got its thirteenth rejection. The twelfth rejection stung like a motherfucker so I crafted a voodoo doll of Editor 12 out of some leftover felt and yarn. Bet her butt smarts about now! No really. The thirteenth was practically a Yes except for the niggling No part. It was a soft landing, that one, and gave me a shred of hope.
The publishing industry is fickle and hurting, and wants a sure bet. Writing quality doesn’t count anymore, as evidenced by 50 Shades of Shit. Have you seen Gilbert Gottfried reading this book?
The Twig Collector in her winter hat, gloves and oversized sunglasses. You guessed it. She collects twigs. Every day, twice, maybe three or four times a day. We joke, we neighborly neighbors, that she is collecting tinder for her fire pit in the middle of her living room floor, to heat her house old school. She’s obviously cold even though it’s 88 outside. She is not yet old and if it weren’t for the get-up and the sticks, she’d be nearly invisible. Instead, she blares. I take comfort in her appearance of insanity. Really I think she has OCD and it’s torture for her to leave any twig uncollected. It must drive her mad. Did she run out of meds?
A gristly sinewy man with an underbite who gets yanked around the block by a cloudy-eyed half-blind puggle-pitbull mix. He wears red Spandex shorts and takes gravity-defying strides that make him look like he’s pretending to be a grown-up. He lives in a tiny paint-peeling cottage at the bottom of a hill with a crooked, popping up sidewalk, and where the road turns there is another house that looks pieced together from construction garbage—plywood, corrugated green fiberglass, old two-by-fours. There’s a dog there too, boarded in with old sheets of particle board and thin yellow bungee cords. A rottweiler who will probably escape one day.
The jog-walker with the wispy gray hair trailing behind him in jaunty puffs as he pretends himself athletic, nose in the honey-suckled air as he sashays. His pasty knees. Threadbare T-shirts. Balls hanging out of his shorts when he bends over to tie his sneakers.
These are the people in my neighborhood.
Inching out of this corner I’ve created, one sentence at a time. One therapy session. One pill. One vacant stare slouched on the carpeted step. One song on the iPhone. Ooh it’s so crowded, hot, dank, give me respite! Or is it cold and my teeth chatter? Cobwebs at any rate.
Painting my portrait, spinning circles around the easel. First sitting regal, then running to stand-still with palette hooked to my thumb. Then back again till the sweat beads pop and are documented in dabs of white and gray. That crease between the brows. Those tangled brows. Botox, NO!
Positives: not beating the children. Good husband. Clear skin. Well-fed. Temperate (ish) weather. Money for groceries. Clean sheets. Health insurance. Wisdom scratching at the door, whimpering like the family dog. GOD spelled backward. Count the good bits like rosary beads. Inch by inch. Silver coins. Pearls. Never forget them. Never forget. Pat your pockets. Touch your heart. Kiss your thumb and forefinger. Bow humble monk of mind’s twisting temple.
A writer friend, Cari Luna has a blog called Dispatches from Utopia. I met Cari while blogging from Brooklyn. She lived there too, wrote there, had a baby, and knitted. We had a playdate and then to add another commonality to the list—okay, I’m not a knitter, but I can bead a mean necklace—both moved—she to Portland Oregon and me to, well, you know. I rediscovered Cari recently on Twitter and reached out. Nowadays, she posts a wonderful series called Writers, with Kids. Today, I’m that kidful writer. Take a look here, and thank you Cari.