I am sitting under a quilt in a rather chilly vintage Spartan trailer in Ojai at our orange grove this evening with daughter Sarah while she works on her charting and I catch up on work that I have laid aside for the past little while. I took an Internet holiday as best I could over the past 8 or 9 days, feeling a strong need to simply rest for a bit. I returned from our wonderful trip to Europe with lots of love and happy memories, but also with a serious chest cold. Once I recovered from that, then in rushed a plethora of students feeling pressed to get their essays completed for early college deadlines, followed by Thanksgiving, more students, then the Christmas holidays, which were lovely but full. Not too surprisingly, I promptly came down with the flu a few days after Christmas and have spent two full days in bed up here in Ojai. At last, I’m feeling much better and also fairly refreshed. There’s nothing like forced bed rest, little food and limited Internet to calm one’s spirits.
I had the pleasure of reading Ann Patchett’s book, This is the Story of a Happy Marriage over the past few days. I would highly recommend it to my writing friends who want a bit of encouragement about life, relationships, and all manner of writing. This is a compilation of Patchett’s published nonfiction works (she is primarily a novelist) and her style is readable and relatable. I have come away feeling as if she and I have spent several afternoons sprawled in easy chairs in her den, drinking cup after cup of hot tea. I’m pleased to report that I liked her very much and felt heartened by her thoughts on life in general and on writing in particular.
I picked up her book after listening to a Master class conducted by David Sedaris (this is through the Masterclass series) and he said that everyone who writes should read Patchett’s essay entitled, “The Getaway Car: A Practical Memoir about Writing and Life.” I read it and would agree that it’s extremely helpful as is the entire volume for one good reason or another. Basically, the whole book will help you feel as if you’ve spent time with a “regular” person who has the same basic ups and downs as the rest of us but also just happens to be a bestselling novelist.
Of course, I already know about that kind of person since I have the honor to work with best selling author Susan Wittig Albert, who is the founder of Story Circle Network, the organization that I not only love and participate in as a member but also work for as the Coordinator of Online Writing Classes. Susan is the hardest working and most consistent writer I’ve ever met, simply getting up day after day and doing her work just like a nurse or a doctor heads to the hospital or a bricklayer heads off to his (or her) next job. No big frills, just steady and disciplined showing up and doing the work. That is basically what Patchett says and Sedaris says too and Albert would also add if I were to ask her. Stop fretting, just show up and treat writing like a job at Walmart. Get up, get dressed, show up on time and do the work. Period.
So, you see, I am here under a quilt in this rather chilly vintage trailer doing the work because I’ve heard on good authority that is what the writing life is. Nothing more, nothing less.
I’m happy to be back. I look forward to 2020 and to spending more time with all of you.