Since we’ve moved to Philadelphia on the occasion of my husband’s retirement, I’ve more or less stopped writing. The two of us share an office. It’s large and he has his end and I have mine, but, hey the air is one continuously flowing fluid. The sound of my husband’s voice on the phone with the insurance agent or Fios or the travel agent wafts over from his end to mine. But I want silence (!) Just the chance of noise within the next few hours is a distraction. As is flitting shadows of movement in my peripheral vision. Or the sound of vacuuming. Or suggestions of, “How about going to Joe’s for a cheesesteak?”
Well, of course, I’m being unreasonable! But to write for me is to be in my own space, my own head, where only the characters hold court. So I don’t write. …Well, I tell myself, it’s just too tough to sell in this marketplace anyway. Better to be a good publicist, which I am not, than a good writer, which I am, if you want to sell your books. So, after we moved, I finished up a few projects and now content myself with reading online 24/7, all about what outrageous thing Trump has done now.
Except content is not the right word.
Apropos nothing, some years ago, my husband’s cousin Evelyn and I were having a conversation about my frustration of writing without a following. She asked me (naively? provocatively?) why I couldn’t just write for my own satisfaction. “No!” I shot back. “What writer wants to write just for herself? The whole point is to communicate, to connect.”
I don’t think she quite got the indignation. She probably thought I was being stubborn or childish or inflexible, or all three. I figure she wanted to say, “Cut the crap. If you want to do it, do it. If you don’t, don’t. You’re not a baby. Stop complaining, for God’s sake.” Well, okay, I really don’t know what she was thinking. I shouldn’t treat real people like characters. But at the time I was pissed off.
“Retired” as I am now, though, without an outlet, I wonder whether she was right. I think back occasionally to when I was a child or a teenager and wrote just because.
Just for the pleasure of it. I’ve almost forgotten how to do that. We get married and have children and go to work to support ourselves. We clean the house and do the chores and learn how to ignore what we really want to do, in favor of doing what we should. And in the meantime, some of us forget to listen to the spark of pleasure that comes from doing something just for the fun of it.
As an aside, though perhaps this is really the crux of the issue, my husband and I were in the supermarket the other day, having grabbed a giant pack of toilet tissue, 2-ply, super-soft, because my husband likes 2-ply toilet tissue. I guess he doesn’t like to have to mete out enough of the single-ply stuff. He doesn’t see why he has to. He’s a 72-year old man who came to this country in a long, roundabout trajectory from Poland through Italy, Israel, and France with a long stretch in Canada. It isn’t luxury to him to have 2-ply toilet tissue. It’s what he wants and he’s not hurting anyone in having it. My background is more “privileged” – growing up on Long Island with middle-class parents. I never had to go without. So now, in my dotage I want to go green – preserve the earth. Single-ply stuff will do just fine, thank you.
So, we’re at the checkout, and the cashier says to me, “Not to impose, but you realize that you could buy some 1-ply other brand for much cheaper? Such and such brand is on sale and you get so much more out of it.” I explain that though I appreciate her concern, actually we like the 2-ply kind because it’s softer, blablabla, and she excuses herself and goes back to checking out.
And that’s the end. Though I actually agree with her. I think the world is divided into two types – the maximalists and the minimalists. The existentialists and the spartans. Those who save the new shoes for someone’s wedding or that great bottle of wine for guests, and those who wear the shoes and drink the wine because they want to and thoroughly enjoy every minute of it. Saving or using? Enjoying something for the sake of it? Writing for yourself?! Maybe Evelyn was right after all.