“How much — how/ little — is/ within our/ power.”


I am so happy that this exists.

Not because I myself scribble on the backs of envelopes and business cards — I use mine for jotting down ideas, plotting story arcs, etc. What else am I going to do with them? It’s not the 1880s, or even the 1980s. Who in this world genuinely wants ‘my card’? And for what?

But because, as far as most people are concerned, Real Writers have notebooks.

Whose hand-bound leather covers, smooth as butter, enclose leaves as delicate as the scales on a butterfly’s wing —  and yet are magically resistant to food stains or predation by household pets. Which fit in a pocket, yet never, ever fall into the kitchen sink or the toilet. Which are no doubt filled nothing but profound thoughts rendered in lyrical language and inscribed in the kind of calligraphic script that can’t be achieved on a rumbling, lurching city bus or when small children are clinging to you like one of Harlow’s macaques.
Or old-fashioned typewriters. Which are so not portable that they require a well-furnished study within a clean, orderly home. Which, even if they could be moved, could never be left alone, lest a roving band of nostalgia-fueled hipsters strip them for parts or dismantle them for purposes of upcycling.
(Sometimes, if their living spaces involve a lot of glass and minimalist decor, Real Writers upgrade to sleek machines, laptops or tablets into which they can input their genius and broadcast it to the world.)

Fortunately, as this book proves, most people are also wrong. Real Writers use what they have, what’s within reach. What they do, happens in the mind and then gets translated to…whatever receptive surface they can find.


This semester, in night school, so many of my classmates would say, “I really want to start a blog, but I’m worried I don’t have anything to say.” And my instructor, who’s otherwise a decent person, would agree with them.

“Ok, you’ve said it to the ladies,” I replied, “Now tell that to the guys.” Because nobody ever does, I find. We assume that men have worthwhile things to say — probably because we take men at their word, which is louder and gets repeated a lot.

As for my female peers, I suggested that they not wait to be invited to the party. Because if you, a woman, are hoping that someone will come along and say, “Please, join the conversation,” or ask, “So, what do you think about X?” with a genuine interest in your honest answer, prepare to be disappointed.

“I don’t have anything to say” too often translates to “Others don’t think I have anything to say and, for whatever reasons, I believe them.”


Right now, I’m busy with various endeavors, though nothing I’m prepared to discuss. I’m not being coy, just practical — in my experience, about 96 percent of everything ends up not panning out. If the things I do end up presented as fait accompli, it’s only because I had no idea they’d even become reality until they were finished. Or even after they were finished. More often than not, you get a “Oh hey, can you get this to me by tomorrow?” and then silence.

Most of the time, it’s not that I’m experiencing failure, which is useful, it’s that I’m experiencing nothing, which is random and not terribly instructive.

If I were to announce, “Hey, I’m writing a piece for X,” then weeks or months would pass and nothing would happen and finally, if someone asked, “So whatever happened with that piece you were writing for X?” I’d have to shrug and say “No idea.”

If only creative pursuits were framed in terms of simple rejection or acceptance. That would be a dream come true. Instead, it’s more like the magazine folds or the gallery closes or the boss dies-at-desk and (probably) his, (maybe) her replacement restructures everything before quitting and then some intern just tosses everything in the recycling and after that, nothing.

So I keep doing what I do; it’s a living, however improbable.

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