I’m feeling like Anne Tyler. You know, the Anne Tyler who wrote Breathing Lessons and The Accidental Tourist ?
Yes her, I feel like her. But not the Pulitzer prize-winning prose powerhouse her. No, not the author of 19 novels her. No more like the other her. The Anne Tyler in her essay ”Still Just Writing”. The one who starts out with an idea for a character and then is led away from that possible novel by the children’s school vacation, complicated worm treatments for the dog and a search for a black coat for an Iranian relative in mourning.
In between she blocks out the novel and writes in patches between 8:05 and 3:30, except for the children’s dentist appointment and the orthopedist and the gymnastic meets and the cat’s rabies shots. And then her daughter’s illness and recovery and after, Tyler finds herself in her study ”staring blankly at the wall.’’
”I could draw some conclusions here about the effect that being a woman/wife/mother has upon my writing, except that I am married to a writer who is also a man/husband/father’’ and a child psychiatrist full-time, she writes.
So later, when she’s at the school waiting for a child and another mother comes up to her wondering if she’s found real work, ”Or are you still just writing?”, she decides yes, she is still just writing.
Tyler’s piece on the intricacies of writing and life is the one that I turn to again and again when I wonder why I keep writing. I read over how even she cannot write and be with her children at the same time, how she has partitioned space in her head.
Yes, me too, Anne. I’m still just writing. And thank you for reminding me that it’s possible.
Because being a writer can be like floating on chocolate pieces of freedom, but it can also be hungry, lonely work. And managing interruptions and my reaction to what I may think of as interruptions — but realise are bits of my life — is a constantly evolving skill that I have not yet mastered.
Am I supposed to be telling you this in a blog about belonging? Is it proper blogging etiquette (blediquette? bediquette?)? Or am I supposed to pretend and keep posting snappy quotes on belonging and insightful essays?
I won’t do what I’m supposed to do.
And the answer doesn’t matter anyways, because my creativity and thoughts disappear when life swells and bloats over the partitions of my brain, carrying away questions and words and sentences on belonging.
I can hear the poet Mary Oliver asking, ”Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
And then Annie Dillard chimes in: ”How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
So does it matter that I spent the last week at the vets after my eldest fed the dog a plate of birdseed, that the dentist rebuilt my temporary teeth (twice), that we saved a baby bird, that my eldest brought home new pet lice and the youngest threw up on the kitchen floor and into the dirt on the side of the road by the train station?
Of course it does. But it matters more that I’m still coming back here, thinking about belonging and writing.
Still just writing.