i have to go to paris.
i know this is not the usual kind of oh-dear thing. as i’ve started confessing this to people, i am getting a lot of stinkeye, oh poor you, you have to go to paris! and they are right. this is, as a friend of mine would say, a first world worry.
but it is worrisome. in fact, i would feel more comfortable if i was simply absconding with my better half’s credit card and storming off in a snit to indulge myself in a whirlwind of selfish excess. because then, at least, i would have no reason to fear the questions afterwards: “whatever became of that selfish snit you were in, when you blew all that money on paris?” folks don’t ask that question. they do, however, ask
“whatever happened to that thing you were writing, the one you went to paris to research?”
um, yes, that is a conversation starter.
until now i have been happily under the radar with this. i’ve written all my life, so it raises no eyebrows when i tell folks i’ve been writing and there is no followup; no one expects anything of me anymore. what little workshopping i have done has happened in a cloud of anonymity courtesy of a generic pen name. even this blog is written by “lsj”.
and all of a sudden i find myself with a reasonably linear, functional 250,000 word narrative and 100k of pieces of a second and i cannot sleep because this thing, however awkward and slow and massive, is alive inside me.
. . .
so once upon a time there was a Poor Little Writer. and for years, for decades, this PLW watched as fellow students/writers/academics got “breaks”—publication, awards, fellowships, teaching jobs, spouses with incomes that meant they did not have to work. to all of this, the PLW would complain: where was the institution/magazine/publisher who, instead of just saying “you’ve got talent, hope you keep it up” or “this story is great, it’s just not for us” would actually put their freakin’ money where their mouth is?
no breaks for the pauvre PLW!
but odd things started happening these last two years.
first of all, the PLW received a muse. it showed up one day, and after a few months of wordless banter, took up residence in the PLW’s house.
then, after a particularly bad project that had forced the PLW to work through every vacation for over a year, the PLW snapped and demanded a month off.
the PLW was given 3.
this, the PLW realized, was that rare species of life opportunity colloquially referred to as “a break.”
3 months later, there were about 300,000 scattered, rough, cheesy, but in some places rather decent words on the PLW’s hard drive, and the PLW had put on 8 pounds and was developing circulation issues, and the muse was pleasantly plump and well-groomed from an excess of worship.
and now there’s this paris thing.
. . .
the other night i was pouring over a map i had bought of paris in the 1740s, with google directions on the computer beside me, trying to somehow parse out distances and cursing haussmann for changing things so freakin’ much. how long would it take a carriage to get from a to b? how narrow is that narrow-looking street?
and my better half, watching this convoluted process, finally asked: why don’t you just go there? wouldn’t that help?
i laughed outright. after all, that’s the kind of thing successful people do, people who get breaks. not PLWs with multiple loan payments due each month.
at which point my partner, my significant other—really my better half in many, many ways—looked at me very intently and said: i’m serious. this is your art and you need to go. it doesn’t matter if it gets published or not. it’s not open for discussion. you have to do this.
typical bossy scorpio.
our annual vacation is cancelled. christmas will be minimal. the old car got a new radiator instead of being replaced entirely.
and all of a sudden i am faced with daunting questions of self-worth, the value of creative work, the point of creative work, and the frightening realization that i might have to close the door on that PLW chapter of my life, and all its sourpuss comforts, for good.