Archive for October, 2012

October 14, 2012



Recently, Julie, of our Savannah Zona Rosa group, wrote me a glowing email: “I may be real wryter – I’ve just had four wonderful days of total immersion.” I liked her little faux-Shakespearian twist on the word “writer.”  But what I loved most was that the oh-so-busy Julie (she runs a swimming school for kids) had found the time to dip down deeply into her moving memoir in progress – indeed, deeply enough to get that special glow that comes from total immersion. 

         A couple of weeks later, Kathleen, of our sister Savannah Zona Rosa group, appeared looking changed. She, too, radiated a glow that I saw the moment she walked into my living room.  Then she produced the folder that contained the whole manuscript for the riveting memoir she’s been writing for over eight years: she had just spent the past three weeks working day and night on final revisions for the book, and she looked like a creature who had just come up from underground and into the light again (indeed, if her obsession could be bottled, it could be sold as a beauty treatment such as the ones in those ads in Vogue that promise to suffuse light into one’s complexion.)

         I, too, love nothing more than total commitment to my current writing project. Right now, its a third memoir, tentatively titled My Anarchist Heart, and nothing is more delicious to me than those periods when time disappears and, because I’ve worked so long and hard on it, I can almost remember every word, image, sentence of what I’ve written. (By the time, I finished my first memoir, Fatal Flowers, I could hear the book’s words replaying, as though from a cassette embedded into my brain, as I did errands, drove my Fiat down the streets of Savannah).

         In my study, I keep a special shelf for books by authors whose books inspire me. Just picking one up and reading a paragraph or two can put me in writing mode for the entire day, even if that author writes very differently from me. In my kitchen, I keep postcards of great works by Monet, Courbet, O’Keefe and other artists that I buy at museums and sometimes laminate to remind myself of what it means to be an artist. As most of us know, Van Gogh, whose paintings are now worth millions, sold only one painting during his lifetime, and that was to his brother, Theo. But day after day, he did the work.

         As artists – and I include writers when I use this word — throughout the ages (and long before McArthur or Guggenheim fellowships, and stints at writers’ colonies were even imagined) have discovered, the real joy comes in the doing, in being able to lay claim to this and give ourselves credit — to say yes, I am an artist and this is what I value. For many of us, our first awareness of the power of this statement is when we write the words “writer” on a form that asks who we are and what we do. In fact, this reminder may be especially important in a time when the ephemeral – read, world of social media and self promotion, as well as e-publishing and self-publishing – have been pushed to the foreground and can so easily dominate our thinking.

         Yes, like Julie and Kathleen and so many others, I am an artist. What about you?