It’s been almost a year since I started working from home full-time and it’s taken that long for the office-life manacles to come off. The first to go was the dividing line between weekdays and ends: now each day is more or less another and I often forget when in the week I am.
Only more recently, though, did I become fully aware of my tendency to sit and mostly waste the two hours after meals in my apartment on who knows what. So I’ve started going on walks of my surrounding neighborhoods (and have been posting short paragraphs about these daily walks along with other travel-related prose over on Hi).
I start without a plan, usually. Just wander. I end up walking streets I’ve never walked before because they weren’t on the way to a train or restaurant or grocery store or friend’s place. Sometimes I’ll notice myself avoiding a street because of some aesthetic instinct and double back, steer myself straight into the ugly and barren. A few walks in, I realized: this is exactly what one of the characters in my first book does. I joked when I got the tattoo this same character has that I was turning into a fictional person, and maybe I am. People say that fiction is a way for readers to try on different personalities, but these same costumes are even more varied and intricate for the author, and I’m not saying that just cause of Halloween (okay, a little cause of Halloween).
I enjoy the thought that what you write today holds a key to who you’ll be months or years from now. Like how the books you were assigned and never read or were too young to understand in school creep up on you as an adult, and you find yourself remembering them and going back to re-read them, and after re-reading them thinking, oh my god how could I have missed all this, it’s so relevant!
Isn’t every prophecy in some way self-fulfilling?
Reading my own writing I’ll notice recurring themes, motifs, images and wonder, Why is this setting in every book? Why does this idea keep cropping up? What’s my obsession with sand and the sea? I’ll run the trace and find some confluence of events in the past – marks, scars, swells of experience, both good and bad and subtle and poignant – and see that my writing – and selectively remembering and distorting and disguising – have been open air for latent desires, or exercises in wrecking the walls I’ve erected to guard deep vulnerabilities and insecurities.
What if: the stories we write contain the person we were, the person we are, and the person want to be? Even when these characters aren’t explicitly part of the cast, the story emerges from them; is the conversation between these three versions of yourself.
At a crucial moment in her life, the character from my first book gets in a car and drives across the country. The incident only gets a few sentences in the novel, but it’s a major event in her life. And road trips and ties to place, I’ve realized, are a part of the next book, too.
I wrote in an email to a friend today regarding New York, “My tether to this city gets thinner by the day.”
And by me writing this to you, it wears thinner still.