I’m feeling pretty good about this little blog now. I think I’ve finally assembled something that makes sense. I feel like I’ve spent the last week or so moving into a new house–packing, moving, unpacking, organizing.
And as I’ve done that I’ve managed to write something. Everyday.
I like that.
A couple months ago, someone who was pretending to be interested in my writing asked me what my process is like. “Well,” I told her, “I go to Chocolati on Sundays, and sometimes Saturdays. They have the best coffee, and they’re pretty close to my house.”
Then there was some really awkward silence that lasted for, oh, I don’t know, 37 minutes or so. I realized then that she wanted to know what I do when I write, not where I go to pretend I’m writing. And that was pretty interesting because I often ask students what their writing process is like, and then I expect that they’ll say something reasonably smart. At the very least they’ll tell me they don’t have a set process. I can’t think of a single student who, when asked that question, has told me that she goes to a coffee shop to drink Americanos on the weekends.
I do usually write something when I’m at Chocolati. Truly, I am working hard on Acceptance and coming along quite nicely. Now, though, something’s shifted. My process is changing again and I can’t really explain why.
So were E. to ask me now what my process is like, I’d probably say, “well, things have changed recently. Now, in the evenings, usually around 9 o’clock, I give my dog his pill–he takes it with peanut butter–and then he has to go pee so I let him out, and then he climbs up on the couch with me and curls up in a little pit bull ball and I open up my laptop and type for an hour or two and try not to think too much about what I’m writing. Then I post something on my blog to prove to everyone in the world that I wrote something, and I keep the good stuff for myself.”
When I was 21, a hair stylist told me that my hair was in its final year of a seven year phase. As he chopped away he went on about how the body changes its chemical balance once every seven years (which, yes, I know, is total bullshit, but bare with me here). That, he said, explained why my hair was getting thicker with age. When I told him how old I was, he said I was entering my fourth cycle. He then suggested I go find a picture of myself when I was six or seven and then notice how my hair changed the next year, and then again when I was fourteen. He said the cycle also explained why my hair is curly sometimes and straight other times. He said that everyone goes through the same phase and that explains a lot about people’s hair and bodies.
This guy sounded very sure of himself, and I pretended to believe him. What I didn’t tell him was that I had a mullet from when I was 13 to about 16, and that my mom made me get perms a lot. I wanted to ask him if this might have, in some way, interfered with my seven year cycle.
But I kept quiet because I have this thing about just giving in to hair stylists’ requests for you to believe their crap. I always worry that if I don’t entertain them, or be quiet when they’re quiet, they’ll do something weird to my hair. And my hair is weird enough as it is. I nodded and let him believe that I believed he was a genius. Then he dried my hair, tried to sell me some expensive product, and overcharged me for the haircut and I left and decided to see another stylist for my next haircut.
What I’d like to do is find these two people again—E. and the hairstylist—and sit them down over an Americano. Then I’d ask the hairstylist to explain his theory to E. Then I’d maybe toss in a bit about how if our bodies go through these regimented chemical changes, our brains probably do, too. And that, of course, would explain why I go through these spurts of writing and not writing. Just like my hair, my process changes every certain number of months or years. It’s not because I’m lazy or lack discipline; it’s because it’s part of my chemical cycle. Maybe then E. would see that I’m not a hack.
And then, when the conversation reached its end, I’d gather up all the sugar packets and empty cups and I would encourage E. to hold on for four more years. She’d told me she’s had a novel in her drawer for ten years. If she waits four more years her seven year cycle will renew and maybe then she finally can start talking about that piece of work that’s so brilliant she doesn’t want to talk about it.