I am currently backing up my hard drive. You mean, you've had a novel on your laptop, 6 years' worth of writing, photographs, music...and your laptop is from 2006 and incredibly slow...and you've never once backed it up? Nope. Haven't. Stop looking at me weird. Although, the novel has been living in Dropbox since the spring, and I have used one of those online back-up thingamabobs. I remain a technology neophyte in many ways.
A task such as backing up one's laptop always leads to the most delightful writerly navel-gazing. In succession, I opened languishing Word documents entitled "Dream Transcripts," "The Savage Dentist," and "Even the sound of cars driving by is hurtful after the end of a relationship." Raw. Ouch. Like the true hoarder I am, I suddenly felt pained to even transfer these long-forgotten and yet obviously beloved documents to the external hard drive in order to delete them from the laptop and thus free up much-needed memory. I suppose, at heart, every hoarder feels a sense of psychological ease in knowing that something will stay and live where it has always lived, instead of the "banishment" of storage, deletion, or (unspeakable!) actually throwing it away. This exact drama had a preview as I felt pangs thinking of storing even one box of books or papers in my parents' garage, despite the fact that I haven't yet scratched the surface of unpacking them. I had bought that used copy of W.H. Auden's Selected Poems, and now, in the dead of winter, on CHRISTMAS DAY, a rat was probably going to chew through its center, and then I would have never really read Auden, and his Modernist words would be masticated and forever lost to me. This line of thinking would occur with each book.
When I speak of the "ugly truth," what I mean is that, as any writer knows, the image of Hemingway and Fitzgerald drinking gin fizzes at a cafe table in Paris while also casually writing masterpieces on their napkins and/or moleskin journals is simply not a real thing that occurs. Take me, for example--maybe not writing a masterpiece, but plugging away nevertheless. Mostly, I am unglamorously dressed. (The nice thing about living in a cold place is that you can wear a hat all the time). I write on a Saturday night. My dog seems confused by what I am doing. I dream about my characters more than real people I know. I set aside a day of unfettered writing and end up reading a book about the history of marriage until noon. I queue up the novel and then hear the opening score to Downtown Abbey downstairs and spring from my bed in a second. Truly Pavlovian. I write. And also, I don't write. Or I write content for jobs, which are not novel-related. The secret shame about working on a big project is that you've said "Goodbye! I am off to make my fortune!" and you have been waved off and embraced and supported. And every day is a litmus test as to your commitment to the goal. Some are banner days, and some are struggles--especially that old, beastly struggle of the will.
So, thank you, friends from near and far. And family, too (of course). Every time you ask me how my novel is going, or we talk novel-shop, you comment on my blog, or you tell me that what I am doing is inspiring to you, it adds one more drop to the bucket of this is a time that makes sense. Every time we talk in general, whatever it's about, my heart is gladdened and lightened. The work is made real. It seems less like the undertaking of an underemployed 29-year-old woman in her pajamas, and more like a valid project, and a dream that is worthwhile to pursue. Obviously I wouldn't have come to Jackson if I didn't already believe that, but as obstacles rear themselves along the way, it is still heartening to remember. I am so fortunate to have this time, to have the support to make it happen, and to have all of you. Thank you. Even though I am thousands of miles away, I could not do this without you.