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When All Else Fails

I wish I were writing today. I wish I were writing more than this blog post and a Facebook announcement for a reading/performance of Nomads on January 6, 2015. Not that far away, had to be done. The curators at the Cornelia Street Cafe plan far in advance, put up information on their website. And what else am I working on? Nothing. Except for this blog post, my journal, emails, marginalia on my students’ papers, my clients’ manuscripts. Is this enough? Never. A writer prefers (needs?) a project to look forward to every writing day. But there cannot always be a project.

In the hiatus between projects, what to do? Take walks, read, teach, keep lists. Lists of what? Five things from your childhood, Natalie Goldberg suggests in her new book, “The True Secret of Writing; Connecting Life With Language.” Make lists, no interpretation. What does she mean by this? Is it possible not to interpret? Is it possible to suppress the story-telling instinct? I don’t think so. When all else fails--no time, no ideas--shall I make a list on the subway? In the supermarket? Yes, why not? So yesterday, I bought some new journals (a pack of three slim lined red moleskines) and began to take notes about everything in front of me, so to speak:

* a man dressed in camouflage waiting for the Amsterdam Ave. bus. His arms are tattooed and his face is painted to match the tattoos. What is his story? Is he a vet? In costume for Halloween? Or what?

* a family –mother, father, older sister, grandmother—on the A train singing nursery rhymes to their toddler . How do I even know that they are a family? What makes them seem like a family?

I wrote maybe ten observations throughout the day and every one, without exception, was the beginning of a story.
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