Writing is Easy!
“How was your day?” He asks, leaning in for a quick kiss on the forehead. I think carefully before answering.
I turned down a full-time job to “focus on my writing,” secretly fearing this is nothing but a selfish endeavor. So how was my day?
I plan to write as soon as I wake up. The home office beckons, morning light pouring in through the big window next to the oversized gray chair. Writing hungry isn’t an option, so I plod to the kitchen for a quick breakfast of scrambled eggs and toast. But first, I have to find a new podcast to accompany my cooking. And after breakfast, I really want to make some tart dough. It has to rest for at least three hours in the fridge, so I can go write and then come back to it. But first I have to clean the dishes. And after that, the dog needs some exercise. I keep charging through the new podcast while tossing the frisbee from one end of the yard to the other, until the dog finds a comfortable spot to lie in the shade, content and tired.
Upon realizing I haven’t worked out in four weeks, I decide today would be a good day to reinvigorate that practice. The gym is close to the hardware store, so I pick up a 30-pound bag of potting soil to repot the houseplants. Maybe tomorrow. When I get back in the car, Fresh Air with Teri Gross is ending on NPR, which means it’s already 1 – shit, no, it’s already 2:00. It’s the day after Halloween and the craft store will have fall decorations up to 70% off and on top of that I have an additional 25% off coupon and we really need new decorations for the new house. And the craft store is right on the way home!
I leave with an overflowing bag of fake flowers and pumpkin décor. And once I’m home, I cut the sticky tags off each stem while finishing this riveting podcast about Jeffrey Epstein. As I carefully weave the fall berries and leaves into the twig wreath for the front door, the woman from the Miami Herald who broke the big news story is describing her life and career as a journalist. I hang the wreath on the front door. Step back, tilt my head. It’s much too big for the space. I sigh and take it down, leaning it against the entryway wall. Through my headphones, the journalist says of her previous career very matter-of-factly, “I realized I wasn’t happy. So I made a change.” I roll my eyes. Surely, years of therapy and the benefit of hindsight are behind the ease of that sentence. I wonder if I’m happy. Would I recognize if I’m not? I wonder if I could wade into those waters of change, or if I would dip my big toe in and get scared away by the current. I suppose that moving to a new state, turning down full-time work, and announcing to everyone that I’m “working on my writing” is proof enough that I’m wading in. Maybe if I say it enough, I’ll believe it.
It’s just after 3:00. The babysitter’s car appears in their driveway next door, kids and backpacks spilling out. The journalist talks in my ears about interviewing victims of sexual assault, digging through 10 years’ worth of court files, tracking people down for interviews, flying across the country, doing interviews on CNN News. Back in the kitchen, I roll the tart dough, careful to keep the rolling pin and work surface floured. What could I write about? Whose stories need to be told? What topic would keep me up at night and fuel my desire to write? I stab the tart dough about 40 times with a fork. It needs another hour of rest before baking, so I chop carrots and leeks and throw them in a pot of boiling water. I get an unexpected text message from a childhood friend. She is back in the Midwest visiting her parents and wonders if she can drive the hour to come see me during this trip. I dial her number. I reminder her that I moved out of the state this summer. She expresses embarrassment for not remembering. I feel embarrassed for not having kept in touch.
She describes the pain she has been through over the past year as she makes big changes in her love life and career. “Imagine,” she says, “working so hard for something for four years, then realizing it’s not what you want.” Admitting she wasn’t happy was the first step. Wading through the strong currents of change has not been easy. I laugh and share my relief in her candor. The journalist in the podcast had made it sound so easy. “I’m supposed to be writing today,” I announce to her as I arrange carrots and leeks in a beautiful spoke pattern inside the tart shell. As if this will hold me accountable.
The tart goes in the oven and the phone call ends with promises to check in soon. Now I can finally write! But oh no.
I get a whiff of my hair, which I haven’t washed in four days. Writing while grimy simply isn’t an option. While the tart bakes, I’ll get clean, and then my surroundings will be perfect to write. As usual, I leave the bathroom fan off so my breathing will be labored in the dense, steamy air. For the first time today, there is no podcast, no music, no working out or phone conversation or quick errands or dishes to wash. Just my deep breaths, a room full of steam, and the late afternoon sun shining through the glass block windows.
In the stillness of the moment, I realize that even though most peoples’ workdays are ending, I was meant to go through today this way. Today’s messages about struggle and finding passion were the fuel to my writing. Though I beat myself up roughly once per hour for procrastinating, maybe all I needed was to take in what the universe threw my way, and to pause a moment before sitting down to process it all.
The house smells like butter and onion and rosemary. I’m pulling a soft gray sweater over my head and charging down the stairs just as the timer chimes in the kitchen. A blast of warm oven air hits my face and I can see the crust is perfectly browned. Dinner for the next three days! This will clear up more of my time to write!
I settle into an antique wicker chair on the sunporch, the evening sun casting horizontal streaks through the room. Writing is so easy.
“My day?” I say. “It was fine!”
-November 1, 2019