I used to write in the mornings. I used to write under the covers, a tshirt thrown over a lamp for just the right amount of light. I used to write on an electric typewriter that for some reason I christened Beatrice, pronounced the Italian way. I wrote my husband, who was just a boyfriend back then, epic love letters on old Beatrice, and every morning, from my hotel in Vancouver, I would fax over the pages, inky, blotted with whiteout and the passionate markings of a red pen.
I spent my life writing; poems, stories, failed novels, run on sentences, lists, diary entries. It seemed, for whatever reason, that my free moments were spent chronicling the moments that had already, or briefly, sadly, deliriously, just passed.
I wrote The Lullaby of Polish Girls, mostly in the morning hours, mostly on a narrow terrace overlooking an ugly, abandoned construction site next to my apartment building in Brooklyn. I wrote in the mornings and only during the summer months. I saved the editing for fall, the rewrites for winter. It took two summers before I had a book. During this time I was a young mom, a fresh mom, still concerned over things like pureed foods, still boiling pacifiers if they had fallen behind the couch.
It so happens now, that the novel I am working on, is being churned out at night, on my stomach, a weathered pillow under my elbows, with moths, like drunken fools smacking hopelessly into the porch light above me. I’m a binge writer, turns out, spitting out words till I turn dry, till I turn away in disgust, only to come running back to the laptop, and clacking away for hours, pressing save document save document, as if my life depended on it. And it a way, it does.
Writing is like breathing to me; it is survival. I tell everyone I care deeply about to just write, to allow their experiences and emotions, their imaginings, to find a home in words, on a page, a sheet of paper, somewhere where these words can be traced, read, memorized. I tell my sisters to write, I tell my mother to start a memoir. I tell my kids to write - their names in a column, their spelling words in a row, a sentence or two about their favorite part of the day, that is now gone. So you can remember, I tell them. So you can show your own kids what made you happy once, what made you sad. Writing is like a time traveling machine, son. It’s as simple, and as important, as that.
The blank page beckons me more than it frightens me. The blinking cursor urges me on, even in the moments it seems to be mocking me, teasing, daring me to shut that shit down.
I tell strangers now, who come to listen to me read, to buy a book - I tell them to write. When I say this, I make sure to lock eyes with a female in the audience, because it is my strong belief that of everyone, it is women, it is girls, who should grab a fucking pen, and write it down. Write down your loss, your trip to the mall, write about that boy, that girl, write a secret, a small revelation, or write about the weather, because you never know what will come after a single sentence detailing the sun. Channel the chaos, word by word.
We write, as women, to feel understood, but more than anything, we write to understand ourselves.
Maybe nothing will come out of fit. Maybe we will come out of it as nothing but brave, or chicken-shit, imposters. Maybe we will have to hunt for something better, crack open a thesaurus, delete delete delete. Maybe we will suck. Or maybe we will suck the marrow from our broken, bending bones. It might read as trite, tired, cliched, but most likely, it will read as some kind of true. Start little. Write a letter to a husband, a wife, who spends too many hours at the office, whose touch you miss, whose touch you are forgetting.
Writing is the surest, most beautiful way to fuck with time, to manipulate it like putty in our fumbling hands. We capture the moment we want to remember, and it’s ours forever, and if we want, we can take that single moment and cast it out into the world, and who knows who will set eyes upon it, who knows what hunger it will feed, or stave.