Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Writing without anxiety . . . and/or pants

The latest book by my bedside is Mark Salzman's The Man In The Empty Boat.  I knew you'd ask, so I thought I'd just tell you straight-up.  It's a memoir - because that's what I read . . . and write - about Salzman's TEN YEAR battle with anxiety and writer's block.  TEN YEARS!  And he's married to a successful documentarian (Jessica Yu who directed the 1996 Academy Award Winning documentary "Breathing Lessons: The Life & Work of Mark O'Brien" in case you just saw "The Sessions", with very naked Helen Hunt and very prone but beautiful John Hawkes.  And if you haven't heard of Jessica Yu, "Breathing Lessons," or "The Sessions," put down the laptop and drive to your nearest multiplex, buy a ticket and absorb the awesome. And if you haven't seen the documentary, click on the link above and watch it!  It's only 35 minutes long. This endorsement has been brought to you by Crazy People Love Determined Heroes Who Just Want To Have (Love &) Sex.)  Anyhazoo, (long detour, sorry) Salzman's book was an impulse buy last summer and for obvious reasons (to me, at least): I write and often struggle with the blockage of writing, I also have low-grade but constant anxiety, INSPIRE THE FUCK OUT OF ME!  So far, Salzman hasn't disappointed.  He is self-deprecatingly funny in a quiet, subtle way.  He is also easily manipulated by his kids, and I can relate to that.  Case in point: he decides to rent an office space to work on a novel he had begun two years before; now, he has a toddler who guilts the soul out of him without even trying; when he tells her goodbye (on his one of three days away from her) she cries, he comforts, she tells him goodbye, and then - just to torment himself - he lingers outside her bedroom door where he hears her quote "The Lion King", saying "You said you would always be there.  But you're not."  Damn, girl!  That.  Is.  Harsh.  Salzman ends up cashing the rental space and sets up shop in his house, where he works in two-hour increments.
Damn, Simba, throttle back the co-dependency!
Long story short: he rewrites his novel (that takes place in freakin' 12th century China, because that's both a huge market and something easy to write about) three bloody times!  I'm mid-way through his memoir and he has had another daughter, his first Jewish-mother daughter (and I can say that because I had and am now a Jewish mother) is now 8, and he still hasn't finished the book!  He has recreated the protagonist in each version.  First, it was an Italian nun.  Then, it was an Italian monk.  At this point it is a Chinese rebel.  In contrast, just so you understand that I am actually nothing like this man, I am happy when I write a blog post of 500 words.  With photographs.  That is the picture of success for me.

So, I've been wondering if I need to commit to this writing thing more and would my husband divorce me if I had writer's block for TEN YEARS, during which time I didn't bring in any money or contribute to childcare?  I fantasize about a little writing shed in the backyard where I could finally spread out all of my books and paper and clutter without having to constantly move it from the dining room to the family room to the attic to the coffee shop to my porch.  Ahhhhh.  That sounds loverly.  I obsess so much over this that I have a Pinterest board devoted to it.  Check it out!  Apparently, I'm not alone.  I re-pin tons of cute photos of sheds (and chicken coops because some chickens really live it up) from other people who also want a writing shed or art studio in their backyard.  What?  No rent, no travel, hell, no pants if you want!  It's in your backyard, who would know?
Can't you just see me, not wearing pants, in there?
But, back to Salzman.  He did write a bestseller about his travels in China, Iron & Silk, so he could rest a little on his laurels.  I am one semester away from finishing my MFA in writing with 4 articles/essays and a handful of local-interest columns under my belt.  I need a cash cow so my husband can become a house-dad.  And that, my friends, is not helping the low-level anxiety.


Man In The Empty Boat image:  http://amazon.com
Simba image: http://fanpop.com
Tiny shed image: http://www.smallgardenlove.com/beautiful-garden-sheds/garden-shed-shabby-chic/