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February 7, 2019: The Writing Life: Looking in the Mirror

Yesterday my sister El sent me a draft of an essay she’s been working on, the working title being “Spectacle at Howard Johnson’s” – the subject matter being family related and centering around our wearing glasses. She did an amazing job and I told her so. The most cool part of all was that in talking, we shared memories about like-experiences.

I had to be careful and not say a whole lot about how she might further revise this particular piece of writing because if I did, it would become my piece of writing. This is because for me, that which she wrote is like looking in the mirror. Now that I think about it, there were two brothers who wrote like-memoirs, one was Geoffrey Wolf

who wrote The Duke of Deception and the other was Tobias Wolf, who wrote A Boy’s Life. Both are radically different, but equally good books.

El and my subsequent conversation was quite wonderful, not just the sharing, but the wide range of related things we talked about. Finally, I said thank you to El for sharing and talking about writing with me – for I’d always thought that she took a rather dim view of my occupation. And furthermore, that I was just not good enough at what I do.

No, no, no Eleanor said, it was that she was bothered by the fact that I seemed to be beating my head against the wall, meaning, continuing to do what I do without any seeming success. I conceded she was right, and realized that Pete most likely felt the same way.

An unspoken comparison then came to mind. According to my father, his father was a boxer. He repeatedly got knocked down but always got back up and resumed fighting. This is most apt. I have had some majorly tough writerly blows, but after, I’ve gotten back and resumed doing what I set out to do.

What I did say to El fit in amazing well with this analogy. I said that I recently finished one book proposal, and am nearly done with a second, and that both are good. Then I added that my recently having gotten an acceptance in a major horse publication had provided me with the impetus to write another short essay, this one the revision of a dispatch entitled “My Private Epicenter.”

Yeah, I should have hung up the proverbial towel years ago. I persist, I think, because I so much enjoy being in the zone when writing. Publication is of course verification that my work has been well-received. It also alleviates the pain that comes with constant head banging.

I now often wonder, has all the time spent writing made me a better writer? I thought so today because El validated what I do by sharing her work with me and listening to my comments. I agreed with her, she’s in an enviable position in that she can just enjoy writing for she has nothing at stake. Me, yeah, I have everything at stake – but it’s because I’ve made it that way.

And as Kurt Vonnegut once said, “and so it goes.” Today I made what I think was considerable headway on “My Private Epicenter.” It was like, ahem, pulling teeth. I start by writing about what I was to discover, which is that the earthquake stories forged a sense of community. In the details that follow, I verify this. So, I guess my main idea IS up front.

See? I just refuse to give up. Another round of hard lefts may be coming. But then again, I might this time be the victor.

Next: 39. 2/8/19: The Writing Life: I Are not Alone

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