Write You Are

There’s a wonderful article about writing in this week’s New Yorker. It’s by John McPhee–a man whose essays usually throw me into a frenzy of irritation. But this one won my admiration. It was compassionate. And wise. Replete with helpful suggestions. It isn’t the first piece he’s published on the subject, but it is, in my opinion, the best. It starts at writers’ block, then ranges to rewriting, copy editors, a writer’s despair, the virtues of dictionaries. It’s a charming meditation–ruminative, loving, and, to me, at least, encouraging.

I don’t consider myself a writer, of course. How can I? I’m not paid to do it–although I have been, on occasion, in the past. Still, a person oughtn’t to toss around titles like “writer”–or any other, for that matter–without a certain on-paper credibility. I’m touchy about this. Perhaps because I had a husband, at one point, who used to routinely call himself a “film producer.” He’d never gotten within a thousand miles of a piece of celluloid. But he had aspirations, and felt that one could become something only by claiming to already be it.

“Great,” I replied. “I’m the president. Get me Air Force One”

Needless to say we didn’t stay married.

I do write, though. Obviously. So I relate to certain dilemmas encountered by writers. Block, specifically. But not just that. The elation that comes from writing a good sentence. And despair. Oh, despair. Mine, of course, has applied to far more than the words I pen. But I do get the literary variety. Particularly since I started blogging. I’ve written before about the senselessness I fear is attached to this particular art form. At least the way I practice it. I’ve talked, too, about bloggers I don’t think are senseless. Those I admire desperately. Lisa B. Adams, for example, whose poems and prose about living with metastatic breast cancer continue to devastate and awe me every time I read her.

But me? I’m mostly silly. I write about dishwashers, pipe cleaners, dog hair. I pen odes to Trader Joe’s. I discuss my daughter’s bodily functions at great length. I keep things superficial, anodyne, occasionally humorous. I never talk about my marriage. Or politics. Sex is off the menu completely. On the blog, mind you. In real life–ahem.

See? I’m clamming up.

I don’t even tell you my name.

There’s a level of self-revelation I really should aspire to. It’s what nearly all successful bloggers employ. They talk about their body image issues. Their fear of wrinkles. One mommy blogger I know described in great detail how she made grocery lists while her husband screwed her. Others discuss depression, illness, mania. Me, on the other hand? I stick to cleaning debacles, light chats with my three-year-old, cooking disasters. Does this make me a coward? Blocked? Or just a mildly bad housewife?

McPhee suggests, in his article, that those unable to get a first draft on paper should use a little trick. Just, you know, to get the juices flowing. They should start with a clean page. At the top of it write “Dear Mother.” And then start. Just start. Talk to mom, tell her anything and everything they’re thinking. When they’re done they’ll have a semblance of a first draft. Now cut off the salutation, rewrite, and presto!

Finished piece.

I didn’t try it this time. But I know Mom is reading. So maybe I did. My name is Jessica, by the way. Nice to meet you. Maybe on the next date I’ll tell you my last name.

Or maybe I’ll show you my Japanese toilet.

Intimacy comes in many forms.

13 thoughts on “Write You Are

  1. Jeff McElroy

    I’m not sure I know why or can explain why, but I really really like this entry.
    Also, have I made a terrible mistake by referring to your full name in a past reply. My apologies, if so.
    And just so you know, your blog is the only blog I follow. I fell into it, obviously, through the musical connection and have continued to be entertained by it. It’s sometimes silly – which is great, it’s sometimes hilarious – which I love and sometimes it’s even touching – which surprises me. Occasionally, however, it does all three of these things at the same time – which simply amazes me.

    Reply
    1. thumbstumbler Post author

      You’ve done nothing wrong. I don’t know why I was trying to stay anonymous here. Silly, really. I’m glad to be over it. And you’re my best reader ever!!

      Reply
  2. Carrie

    I found your blog one night through a yahoo group we both belong to because I even thought your innocuous posts there seemed extra smart, and read every bit of it silently cry-laughing since my kid was asleep in my bed, then sent it to my best pal so she could laugh too. Then someone I know mentioned the name of your dog (why? i cannot remember.) and I realized that we know about a million people in common, and I felt like kind of a weirdo to know all these hilarious personal stories about you when we’ve never met in real life. That’s the thing about blogging I guess. Should we ever run into each other out in the world I’ll awkwardly fess up that I’m a loyal reader. This is possibly my very favorite “parenting” blog although it seems more like just a “being an imperfect human” blog. You’re a heck of a writer, lady.

    Reply
    1. thumbstumbler Post author

      I appreciate that, Carrie. And always, the comments. I can’t tell you how much it helps when I hear from readers. It must be the performer in me, but writing into a void–even when I know there are eyes on the other side of it–is challenging, to say the least.

      Reply
  3. Hope

    momma- i love you + so enjoy your musings here. hate to break it to you but you are a writer. a damn good one at that xxx

    Reply
  4. Pingback: Squirrely | thumbstumbler

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