I hope my friend, Kim, doesn't mind if I brag about her. She's quite possibly the coolest mom I know. You know that song, Stacy's Mom? That's all I'm saying. She's terminally cute and tragically hip. She's smart and hysterically funny, but that's not all. She's totally motivated. That's what really impresses me. She's got three kids and a dog who ought to be on Ritalin (the dog, not the kids) but she still manages to work part time and - get this - write a book. Yeah, like a real book. Wait, let me clarify that. It's not her first book. It's the first one that will be published. So, actually, she's written several books. And a blog.
I'm one down, several to go.
When I was in college, I fancied myself a writer. I wrote poetry (air quotes on that, please) like some Bohemian renegade, although I was the biggest, saddest wanna-be ever. Remember what I said about bare feet a few posts ago? I couldn't even wear Birkenstocks convincingly. I tried all the hippie clothing, but I kept having to accessorize. Or wear high heels. I just couldn't cut it, no matter how much time I spent in the local coffee shops, at the movie house, in the women's theater troupe, I was still just a suburban girl from a well-off family, whose father was paying her way through school.
So, instead, I wrote. It was as close to artsy as I was ever going to get. I wrote my heart out through every ridiculously dysfunctional relationship I had (and I use the word relationship loosely). I wrote sob stories, and happy stories, and dark stories about suicide; I wrote short plays and painfully long chapters of (I'm so embarrassed) romance novels. I dreamed that one day, I'd be published; I'd become insanely famous and travel the world. I'd hob nob with other famous authors, like Maya and John and J.D., and they would come and hang out at my Vermont farmhouse for long weekends. Hollywood would make a movie out of every novel I wrote, so even illiterate people would know my name.
The thing is, I never wrote the book. I never finished it. I started a new one, and another one, and another one. Over the years, they were all stuffed into boxes labelled "memorabilia" that stacked up in my various apartments and rental homes, and finally, now, rest in my husband's neat and tidy garage. I gave it up when I had kids; who the hell has time to write when you're raising a family?
But a few months ago, my dear friend Joanne, (a brilliant writer herself), got me writing again. She started a blog with me. Then she started her own. Then I came here. Now we write every day, somewhere. We are writers again. We've picked up our old novels, or modern versions of them, or new ones, and we've been recharged. I sit here and I write about my kids and my value as a parent, but at the end of the day, I'm really just trying to estimate my own worth. Without a career, some days it's hard to do. Who am I? What do I have to offer the world? (Particularly on days when I feel the children I am offering up are not exactly my best effort.)
Kim tells me I'm a writer too, even though she's the one with the book deal. I thought I'd be jealous as all get out if someone I knew got published before I did, but honestly, I'm so outrageously happy for her, it's crazy. It just feels like good karma, like things are coming together and the stars are aligning and all that good shit. It's not about being published, I realized, it's about doing what I love. It's about picking up the pen again, and, as Joanne says, showing up at the page. It's just about the writing.
Today, at the bookstore, Jack and I were browsing the aisles when I called him over to the Young Adult section. I pushed my finger between two books, one whose author's name began with Da and the other with Di. "Check that out," I said, "that's where Kim's book is going to be. Right there." And instead of feeling like this should be me, I felt something I hadn't expected.
If I want to be a writer, I realized, I'm in good company.