Damn, once you’re dead you’re going to be a very pissed-off ghost. I’d like to think Orwell is beyond ego-attachment to his backlist. Me, personally, I’d rather be remembered for the moments of happiness I helped occur in the world. Writing should be more like ‘play’ so please don’t weigh it down with lofty expectations about immortality. Sorry to ramble, you asked.
"When minor characters who are also ethnic minorities start talking among themselves in their native tongues, they sometimes take advantage of their invisibility to say things. Sometimes they break the Fourth Wall and start ranting about the movie director. Sometimes, they spout random obscenities or natter about their lousy lunch. It’s all in not-English, so whatever they say doesn’t matter! And the actual translations of their lines can be a secret source of hilarity in films where actors are instructed to use a Gratuitous Foreign Language (GFL) in order to make a scene sound more authentic. When some Native Americans cast in Westerns were told to speak their own language to add some authenticity, these actors took the opportunity to crudely editorialize about their director, which allegedly resulted in Native American audiences (in)explicably cracking up laughing during scenes that were meant to be dramatic."
I read James Wood’s essay On Not Going Home recently and a few lines reverberated through the middle of me as if there was a gong between my ribs and someone hit it. Usually its vibrations are reserved for arguments or betrayals or a need to spring into action; rarely do a couple of sentences make it sing:
But perhaps the refusal to go home is consequent on the loss, or lack, of home: as if those fortunate expatriates were really saying to me: ‘I couldn’t go back home because I wouldn’t know how to anymore.’ And there is ‘Home’ and ‘a home’.
That capitalization of Home. It was and is what I have been trying to say since I boarded a plane at the Buffalo airport on June 1, 2011. Afterwards, I have always missed Home.
I have a home. I’ve had several of them since I held my left hand with my right, heaved a deep breath of air out, and said, “Okay” from my US Airways aisle seat. That self-assurance eventually turned into not knowing how to go back anymore. It stopped making logical sense to do it, even when I deeply longed to. The fact that I never just went back, then, is what seemed impossible to put words to until now. Home with a capital “H” became pleasant and comforting, easy and routine to visit, but never a home again. I realize I prefer it this way.
I continue to search for words that belong to me and occasionally find them perfectly and already said by another. I call it writing, this daily adventure into both isolation and company. Someone recently asked me why I write (someone is always asking this, it seems, and not just to well-known writers, but to anyone who sits down with it every day) and I didn’t realize this was my answer. For the hunt and the find.
"One day in the early 1920s, a young Ernest Hemingway rushed along the streets of Paris seeking shelter from a downpour. He soon came upon a warm cafe on the Place St.-Michel and ducked inside. After hanging his rain jacket, Hemingway ordered a café au lait, pulled out a notepad and pencil from his pocket and began writing. Before long he had fallen into a trancelike state, oblivious to his surroundings as he penned a story that would later become the first chapter of his memoir, “A Moveable Feast.” If Hemingway were alive in 2014, he might not have finished what he started writing that day. Realistically, he probably wouldn’t have even put a pen to paper. Instead, he might have ducked into the cafe, pulled out his smartphone and proceeded to waste an entire afternoon on social media."
"I have a writer’s memory, which makes everything worse than maybe it actually was."
— Amy Tan
Taking time to breathe
The phrase, “I barely have time to breathe!” is one I never liked. Of course you do or you’d be dead! What a ridiculous thing to say.
But I get it now. No time to witness your breathing. How the air feels coming in, how it sounds on the way out, whether one nostril is more open than the other. Being tuned in to your breathing at all.
I was forgetting to breathe, so I took a break. Four full days of no freelance writing unless I really wanted to. I am just starting out, only five months in to pursuing writing full-time, just barely paying my bills, and I kept thinking I had no right. That I hadn’t earned a break or a full day away from sending pitches and looking for new opportunities. Time with a newspaper or a magazine or a book just for my own enjoyment wasn’t permissible either.
Says who? No one but me.
I left my job in the public school system for many reasons, but one of the most important was the desire to feel in control of my life again. There was a sign-in sheet where I worked that needed my signature on arrival and departure, much like I required my first through fifth grade students to do when they used the bathroom. If I was late by even one minute, my name was highlighted bright yellow. I had exactly 30 minutes for lunch half of the week and 45 minutes the rest. There were five to ten minutes between classes to use the restroom (which rarely happened, as teachers were often late, students wanted to talk, or I had to switch from fifth grade materials to preschool props), my cell phone was not technically allowed out, and I went non-stop for most of the day, constantly switching roles and teaching techniques and trying to be a resource for an entire building of nearly 400 children and adults. I was expected to perform all of my professional responsibilities all while feeling like I was treated like an elementary student myself.
Looking back, I feel like I didn’t breathe for two entire years.
When I quit my job I promised myself that I would never let my world return to that kind of regimented and stressful existence, and yet here I was denying myself a break. Sure, I indulged in three hours of Hannibal marathons some nights, but not without constant thoughts about what was due, what should be done, and how undeserved that free time was.
It is now my fourth day off and I just accepted two new jobs. The work I have been putting in motion needed to build some momentum without my watchful, worried eye. I needed to not be maniacally checking job boards and my email every ten minutes. Basically, my work needed me to leave it the hell alone for a few days.
My left nostril is usually more open than my right, the lake water is a perfect temperature right now, I read about houses built out of spite and am halfway through Erlend Loe’s Doppler, I found out Marmot’s live on the island on my way down from Mt. Washington, and everyone I love still loves me back.
Turns out it’s OK to breathe sometimes.
"Mostly, what I regret is the ease with which I assumed that others’ prose styles were something not just to study and learn from but to imitate. This chameleonic impulse, a talent I developed at an early age, certainly came in handy during my stints as a writer and editor for women’s service and celebrity magazines — publications that, then and now, demand a cheerful and wholly unremarkable “female” voice — but it also did a fair amount of damage to my writerly sense of self, not to mention my ability to execute stories on issues that had nothing to do with sex tips for singletons, swingy summer dresses or the assignations of Angelina Jolie. My adoption of others’ voices made it even more difficult to find mine, and it wasn’t until I was well into my 30s that I began to realize I could honor other writing styles while also asserting my own. (This development may or may not have been influenced by my entrance into the world of blogging, an environment whose freewheeling, breezy and often very personal approach to prose has inspired any number of now-established writers.)"
— Anna Holmes, read more here.
Typing Writer App
You can see a screenshot from the app as I was trying it out earlier. I’ve gotten so used to autocorrect that I had to go back to capitalize my “T”… and the lovely layover lettering I remember from the massive humming brown hunk of a typewriter I had growing up appeared. I brought out the white-out wand to erase the word “pretty”, since that was some lazy writing. (So was “awesome”, but I was excited) The whole experience, and it really is an experience, comes with the sounds of keys smacking the page and the ding of a new line.
One commenter (the only commenter) had this to say:
For all the charm and nostalgia this app evokes, how many of us REALLY want to be thrown back to the era when we were obliged to resort to over-typing, crossing-out or brushing White-Out over our typing mistakes? Do we absolutely need to foreswear a feature that changes “dont” to “don’t” for us automatically?
I really do and no, not foreswear. But step away from sometimes? Yes. YES. I’ll take the charm, the nostalgia, and the forced slowing down. Sometimes it feels too easy to go back, to delete entire paragraphs and pages. As a writer who struggles with thinking a good percentage of what I come up with is total shit (in the majority here?), a typewriter, with its white-out and letter layering, is exactly what I need. A visible graveyard for my efforts instead of a trash bin in the sky.
Additionally, anything that slows me down and stops me from too deeply regretting not purchasing the typewriter I found in a Smalltown, Vancouver Island thrift store a few weekends ago is worth the $1.99.