The Writing Life: Finally!
- The Writing Life
- The Writing Life: The Beginning
- The Writing Life: Getting Down to Business
- The Writing Life: Lessons Learned
- The Writing Life: A New Millennium
- The Writing Life: A Blessing in Disguise
- The Writing Life: Finally!
- The Writing Life:”Darker” Days
- The Writing Life: Struggling For a New Idea
- The Writing Life: The Last Straw
- The Writing Life: Floundering
- The Writing Life: Opportunities and New Lessons Learned
- The Writing Life: Turning Point
- The Writing Life: Opening Doors
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It was one of those quite Sunday afternoons in the early Spring 2003. I was working pretty steadily on “November Rust” but it had reached a point where the thing just ground to a halt. I was well over 300 pages at this point. Being that it was one of those lazy Sundays, I decided not to knock my head against the wall and just stop for a while, do what I usually do whenever I procrastinate: go on line and catch up with messages, emails, and drop in on some of the writing message boards and groups I had signed on to over the course of the past few months. I would read them and find that many a writer were struggling with the same things I was: writer’s block, lack of direction, lack of ideas, etc etc. It was on one of these writer’s groups that I happened to get in on a conversation about fiction writing and began posting messages about what I was trying to do, the trouble I was having and all the rest of it. I got some replies to my message, most of them encouraging posts about not giving up, stepping away from it for a while in order to come back with fresh eyes, and all the rest of the advice one would usually hear. Except for one message.
A woman had replied to my post. To this day, I wish I could remember her name because the little message she had written me was the very thing I needed to move forward. It wasn’t anything particularly encouraging, actually. She didn’t say anything at all about the writing process or the struggles of trying to write a novel or anything like that. She read the post I had written and her reply came in the form of a recommendation. She wrote something to the effect, “I read your post and how you describe your novel reminds me of “Hopscotch” by Julio Cortázar. It’s a book I highly recommend.” That was all it said. I had never heard of this writer at that point in time, but I vaguely remembered seeing it from time to time whenever I would browse the bookstores. I could sort of see the cover of the book in my head and remembered where I even saw it, in fact. So I replied, thanking her for the recommendation, telling her that I had never heard of this writer before, but I would be sure to look into it.
If it was supposed to be “similar” to what I was doing, as she said, I may as well check it out and see what she was talking about, right? She replied to me, first a little surprised that I never heard of him and second, explaining to me who he was and then went on to talk about the Latin American “Boom”during the 1960s and 1970s. Again, never even heard of this either but the way she described it all seemed very interesting to me. I thought about it a moment, being very intrigued with the whole thing, and decided, you know what, it’s a lazy Sunday, I got nothing else better to do and none of my friends were around, why not head up to where I remembered seeing that book and go pick it up?
I arrived at Shakespeare and Company up on Lexington Avenue about two hours later. I remember hoping that the book would still be there because this is where I had remembered seeing it in the first place. The book was there, thank God and I plucked it from the shelf reading the blurb on the back cover. Ok. I saw the similarity that this woman was talking about but once skimming the first couple of paragraphs, I also knew that mine was something else entirely. First of all, it certainly wasn’t as well written as this book appeared to be but it intrigued me enough to buy it and want to read it. I was really curious to see what this woman was talking about.
After spending some time in the store, checking out some other books, I decided to head home. I hopped on the 6 train, heading back downtown and cracked open the book. I had read five pages before I had to make the transfer to my train home. Those first five pages simply blew me away. I could see that this was going to be one of those books that really had an effect on me. I could feel it.
Having switched trains, I continued to read. It was simply incredible. Not only the interesting structure the book had but the man’s writing was simply out of this world. I was floored by it. When I got home, I had already been so inspired that I turned on the computer and read over the last 50 pages of my novel, trying to figure out where to go from where I had stopped. Ok, I thought. This isn’t as bad or as hopeless as you thought, I said to myself. Just let it sit for a couple of days, finish reading this wonderful book and see what happens. I finished reading it over the course of the next week and a half and let it sink in and absorb some of the more interesting aspects of it and started to think through about what I would do to move forward with my own book.
Tags: bookstores, early spring, fiction writing, Hopscotch, julio cortázar, Latin American, lazy sundays, message boards, novel, point in time, reply, rust, Shakespeare and Company, sunday afternoons, writing process