The Long Haul

Since I last posted, I–

got married, honeymooned in Barcelona, got food poisoning, took a job at a cafe, quit my job at that cafe, moved into a new apartment, resumed my old position at the after school program, and finished my manuscript.  Somewhere in there, holidays and birthdays were celebrated, concerts and openings at art galleries were attended, the flu was weathered (twice), and finally– just a few days ago– my completed manuscript was submitted to editors for consideration.  Whew.

Suffice it to say, I have been busy.

After the wedding (which was beautiful), and our honeymoon (which was fun until I got sick), I returned home to my manuscript, but it was practically complete.  I spent two months reading and attempting to revise, but I did not have the same obsessive desire that had fueled me prior to the wedding.  The words were dull and practically lost all meaning, and I could barely stand to look at them.  Although I knew that there would always be scenes that I could improve and language that could be even more impeccable, I had to be honest with myself: the manuscript was done.  

I sent it to my agent and, in the following weeks, experienced an interesting dilemma.

I did not want to write.

It’s not that I was blocked, although I cannot say I have really experienced writer’s block before.  I have felt stumped by my work, or at a loss, but this time was different.  For the first time since I was twelve years old, I simply did not have the desire.

This, for me, is very bizarre.  My hand craves for the feeling of a pen the same way some people yearn for sweets.  I can hardly read a book or watch a movie, because well-told stories fuel new ideas for my own projects.  As crazy as this sounds, I actually hear voices of narrators in my head, and their words sounds important, and I must write them down.  My journal has been my companion since I was twelve, but I almost forgot about it’s company.

Kyle and I moved into a new apartment in an attic, and I was spending my weekends volunteering for Obama, and we were starting our new life as married people.  I did not even notice the absence of writing.  And when I did realize it was gone, I didn’t feel concern or dismay, but intrigue.  It was a fascinating void.

Our first night in our new home, Kyle had to work late.  Alone, I was faced with the quiet of boxes not yet unpacked and the isolation that comes without a set-up internet connection.  All that was left were unfamiliar shadows and creaky hardwood floors and the unsteady hum of the refrigerator.

I knew at other times in my life, a night like this would leave me feeling terribly melancholy.  But I felt fine, and that felt good.  I clicked on the bathroom light, because the bathroom is probably the best place to unpack first, and felt happy.  I stacked our towels and put away our toothbrushes, and something sparkly caught my eye.

Neither Kyle or I had put that piece of confetti there, and who knows why the previous tenant had pressed it against the wall like that, but there it was, and as a writer (at least, a writer of literary fiction), one cannot ignore an unusual thing like that.  I saw that little word, and thought about how far I had come.  I had accomplished the only things I ever really wanted– to fall in love and write a book.  At that moment in the bathroom, I could have cried.

But I didn’t cry.  I smiled.  And I did something that I had not allowed myself to do in two years: relax.  Since Japan, I had not given myself license to rest.  I had to prove to everyone I was talented– or at the very least, not crazy– and I could not stop until I proved that I was worth it.  Of course, in the end, the only person who I needed to impress was me.

I certainly learned a lot these past two years– about writing and about myself, but also, what it means to be dedicated.  Dedication: believing in something when the odds are against you, and still trying even when hope feels lost; working hard because it is what you love, and finding reward in the work.

I felt this quite strongly as I was volunteering for Obama, waking up early on weekend mornings to drive to New Hampshire, not knowing what I would face when I knocked on a stranger’s door.  Some people were friendly, some people were hostile.  Most people just didn’t want to be bothered and a lot of doors were not even opened.  But I still drove to knock on doors, and took the time to make phone calls– even up to the last hour of polling on election night.

I felt it also, in the first months of marriage, which were more stressful and terrifying than most newlyweds are willing to admit.  Kyle and I are the very best of friends and can talk about anything, but even with our solid communication skills, we still had those, oh shit, what did I get myself into moments.  We are learning how to be married, and find more resilience, more respect, more love for each other, even when life gets hard.

We’re in it for the long haul.

Without writing, I had an abundance of time that I didn’t really know what to do with.  But I wanted to be a good wife.  And a happy person.  So I had been working on that, not really minding that I wasn’t drafting a new project or practicing writing exercises– or even blogging, for that matter.

I was doing yoga.  And I was organizing my itunes library.  I was trying new recipes and cooking dinner for my husband and going to the gym.  I was spending time with friends.  I was watching Girls and not feeling jealous of Lena Dunham.  I was being a person, not a writer.

And I started to wonder, maybe I didn’t really need to be a writer anymore?

Maybe I could be a wedding planner, or own a flower shop.

Or maybe, I could just be a housewife.

But slowly, the voices of narrators started to murmur again.  And again, my hand started craving the pen.  And I would leave for my day job, just wanting to stay home and write.  And I knew, that I could not give up this thing I do.

I don’t really sing, and I’m not very good at dancing.  But I have this idea, that some people do these things when they feel happy, and singing or dancing makes them feel free.  And feeling free makes them feel happy, so they keep singing or dancing, and the cycle goes on.

Well, that’s what writing does for me.

I can’t stop it.  And I won’t stop it.  I’m it it for the long haul.  And one of the things I learned about dedication, and this life, is that a balance must be struck.  Sometimes it’s okay to put down the pen, or pretend that you aren’t really a writer at all.  In fact, that might be exactly what you need.