The best thing that ever happened to my writing life was breaking my ankle. Painful, yes, but it bought me seven weeks of forced bed rest—kind of like a paid writer’s retreat, except for the part where I had to figure out how to get myself to the bathroom.
I’ve written in the margins of life since I was a college student selling cardigans at Lord & Taylor; a graduate student tutoring kindergarteners on the alphabet and prepping high-school seniors for their SATs; an adjunct with a five-class courseload across two campuses; and a late-twentysomething/early-thirtysomething “in marketing and editorial.” Lunch breaks bled into long nights, and long nights bled into weekends. All the while I was chafed raw: I had to eke out my passion in the hours between helping other people achieve their dreams—or at least get what they wanted.
This prolonged, uninterrupted time out of the office was the silver lining of a catastrophic injury.
this last year, has been belonging to an online writers group. There’s 7 of us. We each post about 150 words of our work on our designated day of the week. I post on Saturdays. This is what I posted today:
We got drunk on Havana Club, this fancy rum they have over there available only for tourists and those high in the government. We came home singing, drunk as skunks. I went to sleep in the clothes that I was wearing. My dad stayed with my grandmother. I had never seen him happier–except maybe the time after I graduated from Pratt. The next morning we drove west, from Havana to Pinar del Rio. That’s where we’re from. The strangest thing about this, is that when I saw the truck coming towards us, I didn’t have time to be afraid. I’m sure it was the same for my father. I was fooling around with my camera, and I remember my uncle, who was driving, saying: “look at this guy,” we looked up at the truck, he was trying to pass someone and he couldn’t get back into his lane. This main road in Cuba, the Carretera Central, was only two lanes, one going each way. I heard they gave the driver a ten year sentence. What a useless, stupid thing to do. Like the poor guy wasn’t already in jail, after what he did. He probably never felt free, after what happened. Me neither. . .I haven’t felt free since. . .
A great article on the effects the (fictional) written word has on the area between our ears, by Annie Murphy Paul:
AMID the squawks and pings of our digital devices, the old-fashioned virtues of reading novels can seem faded, even futile. But new support for the value of fiction is arriving from an unexpected quarter: neuroscience.
Brain scans are revealing what happens in our heads when we read a detailed description, an evocative metaphor or an emotional exchange between characters. Stories, this research is showing, stimulate the brain and even change how we act in life.
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