Friday, February 8, 2008

A "Real" Writer

Past couple weeks, I've felt more like a "real" writer than I have in a while.

I put the real in quotes for my good friend Nate who frequently tells his writing students that they're all real writers. The only qualification needed is to write, and I definitely am doing that again. Society often paints the picture of a writer as someone who does magical, unexplainable work, someone who goes off into a room to be fed by his muse. In reality, though, a successful writer is just one who didn't quit.

Well, I certainly haven't quit. The new novel is clipping along, intruded on by life circumstances, but moving nonetheless. I'm one of those writers who carries on forward without looking back much until I'm done, but what I've written so far feels good, feels alive. I've already had a couple small surprises in these chapters, and I'm looking forward to many more along the path.

The other half of that "real" is that whole publication thing. Having sent off my last batch of agent letters, the reality of the writing life is settling in... in the form of rejection letters. Some nibbles here and there, some promising signs, but now I must remind myself what a long road I've know this will be--and that's not even counting the seven years it took to write the novel.

In any case, I'm off to the store and then back to write this evening, hopefully finishing out another chapter. It feels good to be a writer. Yes, it does.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Life and Death

Last Friday was a day poised with both life and death.

After a doctor's appointment with Amber (everything's great!) I worked from home while she visited some friends. I'm glad I was there, because a friend called whose wife had gone in to be induced the night before. The baby had arrived!

Since they were amenable to visitors, we headed up to the hospital after a great dinner at the Widmer Gasthaus. Mom was doing great, though obviously tired. I hadn't expected it, but they asked if we wanted to hold the baby. Only eight or nine hours old, she was the youngest baby I'd ever held. After being around so many of my friends' growing children, she seemed so small. Her tiny hands flexed and stretched, while her eyes pressed tightly shut. She was so warm cuddled up in my arm, so vulnerable and beautiful. I suddenly had a picture of where we're going to be at in about nine weeks here, and I felt more excitement than I've felt in a while.

It was fairly late, and by the time we got home and it was almost midnight. I had already gotten into bed when Amber noticed flashing lights out front. We peeked out the window to see an ambulance and fire truck parked in front of our elderly neighbor's house. We don't know them particularly well so we stayed inside, but worry settled in.

The next morning we saw one neighbor and went to ask her what had happened. With a teary voice she said, "My husband passed last night." I'll never forget how she kept looking down, her face in anguish, every word quivering. We gave her what comfort we could, but it dampened the already dreary winter day.

I've been thinking about it since then, considering writing this post. But it's so hard to write about these things without sounding trite or repetitive. The emotions with the birth of a child or the death of a loved one are so strong, so overwhelming, that no word, spoken or written, can truly meet them on their own terms. We're left grasping for things to say.

And I'm left to wonder what it'll be like when I hold my beautiful daughter... and when will I lose someone I love?