Agi and Elena are watching an award winning Mexican telenovella, "La Fuerza del Destino " (The Power of Destiny) when I arrive at the Laundromat. It doesn't take long for me to figure out what is going on: bad guy, good guy, bad girls, good girls. In my minimal Spanish, and Agi and Elena's pidgin English enhanced by the translation app on my phone, they manage to convey most of the plot. I load up the machine and do a down-dog to stretch my back. Agi and Elena are mesmerized. Not surprisingly, on their feet all day folding laundry, they both have back problems. So, how about a bit of yoga, I suggest.
They cannot believe I am spending time with them again. Most of the customers drop off their laundry, but I don't. I make time in my day and my week to do household chores; it keeps me grounded. And I talk to everyone. Not only is this good for my sedentary writer's body and my spirit, but I get ideas for stories. When I sit at my desk, lost in a cyber world, I feel disconnected, the very opposite of what social media is supposed to do for us. Sure, I chit and chat, send out IM's and texts and emails galore, but how rare it is to talk on the telephone these days and to hear a live human voice. In fact, it's a shock. When a private client wrote me a query yesterday about a revision of her manuscript, I called her. She seemed a bit flustered. Was it a good time to talk? "Sure, for a minute." A minute!! Not only is letter writing now a lost art, so is conversation. This is not good for writers, one reason among many I enjoy the dynamics of the classroom. We talk!!
I remember hearing about a course Margaret Atwood once gave at Columbia University to the MFA students, so immersed in their projects they didn't know what day it was, or what hour of the day. The course was called something like "what writers do when they are not writing," and it was a sell-out, probably because it was Margaret Atwood on the podium. I am sure she surprised the earnest, ambitious, goal-oriented students. Did she tell them to get out into the city and talk to real people? Suggest they take a day or two off and volunteer somewhere? It seems so. The writer friend who had taken the course said it was life changing. Here was a writer she greatly admired who was not cloistered in her writing room; she was connected-- a mother, a wife, a concerned citizen with a life in balance. How can we separate these primal human needs from our writing life; we cannot.