Tuesday, May 25, 2010


When I have a good writing day, I’m left completely drained. It’s like running a marathon, which I’ve done. (Okay, it was actually a 5K, but quite draining for someone as sedentary as myself.) There are some physical aches, like the tension in my neck and wrists, but mainly I’m just mentally drained. After a day of writing, I can barely read a sentence, even a very good sentence in a very good book, like The God of Animals by Aryn Kyle. Forget completing the capitals of the world quiz on Sporcle. Instead, I’m down for the count.

I’ve been trying to balance out these hours of mental strain with some good physical labor. It’s either that or a four-hour nap, which is my sort of marathon.

Hence, my unusual spurt of home renovation.

In the last few weeks, while I’m winding down the final thirty, twenty, ten pages of my novel, I’ve spread four yards of humus in the back yard, painted in the kitchen, made new curtains, reupholstered the dining room chairs, and freecycled eight bags of clothes, shoes and purses. Today I painted the French doors leading onto our patio – something I’ve been meaning to do since the day we moved in, more than seven years ago. It was blissfully cathartic – a cool-down from the intensity of tying together all the loose ends of my book. Baxter was whining through the fence at dog next door and someone in the neighborhood was playing a saxophone, quite well.

All in all, it was a great day – one of those rare times where mind and body came together in perfect balance.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Occupational Hazards

1) I now need to wear glasses at the computer.

This may be more or less related to my job as an online essay rater for ETS, in which I assign scores to around 140 essays in a typical eight-hour workday. And then, in my off-duty hours, I have a hard time focusing on the cursor in my Word document.

“You have 20/20 vision,” says my eye doctor. “There’s really no need to prescribe you anything.”

I protest: But the screen! The glare!

“Hmm.” He considers this for a long moment, his thumbs and index fingers carefully pressed together. “Have you tried looking away from the screen for a while?”

2) Somehow sitting at my computer is connected in my mind with snacking – raising small handfuls of food to my mouth, chewing, chewing, and reaching for another helping. This is because writing makes me nervous. Thus, the expanded waistline, the widening hips. I find myself eating things I don’t even particularly like – chips, crackers, pieces of melty chocolate intended for pastries.

“Try snacking on sunflower seeds,” my trainer says, tsk-tsking.

And so I do – one tiny crunch at a time.

3) After a steady routine of writing followed by yard work, my fingernails are shot – cuticles chewed to ragged pieces, dirt deep in the nail beds. A manicure is clearly in order. I relax and put myself in the hands of a professional – a tiny Vietnamese woman who alternates between comments in English to me and rapid-fire Vietnamese to her co-workers. It takes me a few seconds to realize when her words are directed at me. She douses my skin with oil and begins a massage, my hands huge and ungainly in her petite grasp.

“Relax,” she orders. “You’re holding too much tension in your hands.” Or maybe that’s not what she says at all, but somehow that’s what I hear.

“Well, that makes sense,” I explain. “I’m a writer.”

Monday, May 3, 2010

Horse Before the Cart

So, a few weeks ago, I reached the point where my thesis was basically done – which means that I’ve met the page requirement for prose. My mentor suggested a few small tweaks, and that was it.

At the exact moment I hit “send,” I felt my lungs filling with air like they hadn’t in months. I’m not being metaphorical – I really hadn’t been able to take a deep breath.

Now I can focus on a few other things, like a dress for graduation, heels that will look just right walking across the stage, the guest list for my graduation party. Maybe the house could be spruced up just a bit – we had talked about a flagstone barbeque area in the backyard, and I’ve never been a fan of my lime green-and-red kitchen tile. You know – the important stuff.

Of course, there’s still the wee matter of finishing the book.