On the way home from Paris, I felt anxious. I’ve never been a good flier. I’ve always felt my pulse quicken, my heart clank around inside my chest, my palms slicken with sweat. I also felt claustrophobic. A little brochure in the back of the seat told us that the plain – an Airbus – fit 516 people on it. And the plane was full. And I was in a middle seat in the heart of Economy. You get the picture.
As we were taxiing before takeoff, an image came on the little television screen in front of me. It was an image of a plane. Not just a plane, but our plane. Our enormous monster of a plane, our means for getting home. I watched. I watched as our plane inched along toward the runway, turning carefully to face the right direction. I watched as rain came, little drops pelting the lens of the camera. I watched as we sped up, and took off. And then I stopped watching. I’d seen enough.
After I ate the airplane food – champagne and Camembert, ravioli and a gummy bread pudding thing, I decided to read. I had brought one physical book with me, a writing book, a book called Why We Write. And I read and I read and the world around me, this little world in the belly of a big plane, fell away. The book: it was, and is, a collection of essays by big-time writers on why they write and how they write. These two questions – the why, and the how – of writing have long fascinated me. It intrigues me to read other people’s accounts of why they do this amazing and maddening thing it is I’ve chosen to do, this thing that is still relatively new to me. It inspires me to realize, again and again, that other people, even the greats, find writing to be very mysterious and hard.
Anyway, there is a point. The point is that I don’t just love writing, but I love thinking about writing. I also love writing about writing. I’m not sure I will ever know why it is I do this, why I walked away from a promising and lucrative career in the law, why I duck into the nooks and crannies of crowded city coffee shops to plug in when I could be giggling with my kids. I might not know why, but I know there is a why.
Anyway, this is a very ineloquent way of saying something: I plan to spend more time writing about writing here, excavating the soil of the craft, parsing the words of the heavy-hitters, wondering why this work continues to hold great meaning for me. I know that you are all not writers yourself. But that doesn’t alarm me, or make me hesitate. No. The reality is that most of these questions are not really about writing, but about living, and I know with all my heart – whether it’s mellow or midflight-raucous – that meditations on the written word are, at bottom, meditations on the lived life.
Anyway, we’ll see. I’ve always been a girl without a focus, and proudly so. I’ve always celebrated the fact that I’m scattered – a mom of three, a city creature, a writer of fiction and truth, a hostess of parties, an asker of questions. But maybe I’ve had a focus all along, one that blinked brightly on a dim plane over the Atlantic as my heart freaked and my palms clammed and I made my way home.
Are you willing to read my words about writing? Because I’m going to write them. Do you have any suggestions of good books or blogs on the writing life? Thanks in advance for your recommendations!