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Writing Is Flying

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The Red Room, an online literary space where I’m a member, regularly holds writing contests with assigned themes. Recently the theme was flying.

Writing Is Flying

Ishmael Reed said Writin’ is fightin‘. Isabel Allende said it’s like making love. For me, writing is all that and more: writing is flying.

Many years ago I was living in a country cottage with my two small children, without a desk, much less a room of my own. When the kids left for school each morning I would sit in an old, beat-up armchair upholstered in gray corduroy, and write my novel in longhand. At night I’d type it up while they did their homework at the kitchen table. I had frequent backaches, but I was so involved in the writing, I didn’t care.

About a year later my novel was accepted by an enthusiastic literary agent who sent it to just about every major publishing house in New York. I was ecstatic, convinced that this time — it was my third novel — it would be published. My agent took me to lunch at Café des Artistes.  I indulged in a world of fantasy 24/7, of making the rounds of talk shows, landing on best seller lists…every writer knows the way these fantasies go.

We human beings might need to hold onto dreams, as Langston Hughes put it, but they can sometimes be damaging. When my novel was rejected by every editor who read it, my agent lost enthusiasm. I lost motivation. I did not write fiction again for nearly five years.

And then I had The Dream.

In The Dream I was sitting in that old gray armchair: Flying. The chair was my airplane, maneuvered by pushing or pulling on the arms. I soared high above treetops, over ocean beaches, towns and cities, my heart light and free.

I awoke from the dream with joy bubbling through every cell of my body, as if I actually had taken flight. Remembering the gray chair as the vehicle in The Dream, I realized what it was telling me: When I write, I fly. The joy I’d experienced during my time with that novel hadn’t just been about over-the-top fantasies, but reality: it was the act of writing itself that made my soul take flight. The gray armchair was long gone, and I now had a desk. The morning after The Dream I sat down at it and began anew.

Many years have come and gone since I first had The Dream. I’ve written dozens of short stories (most published) and another three novels (not). The kids grew up and moved out; wherever I’ve lived since then I have a room of my own.

The Dream has recurred once or twice, usually when I’ve really needed it: that old beat-up armchair lifts me up and carries me over the ocean once more.

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5 responses »

  1. What a delightful post! Makes me wish I had an armchair. And the thought of writing long hand with a favorite pen in hand makes me smile. It’s like thinking of a favorite comfort food when young.

    I clicked on this initially to tell you that I saw Isabel Allende on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson last night and she was saying the same thing. All about sex. And it was the strangest interview I’ve seen, a bit uncomfortable to watch. The guest before that was the same, the young woman from the film, ‘Letters to Juliet”, who seemed to be uncomfortable as well. Wonder why they all seemed afraid of Ferguson. I saw the woman from ‘Juliet’ on Letterman earlier in the week and she was fine. Even charming. So it was odd to see it.

    I really enjoyed your post. And I love the image of flying in the armchair.

  2. Loved this. How did I not know you were writing a novel? Or did I know, and I just forgot.

  3. sweet. my dream is flying on one wing right now, but your post reminds me that our gifts and desires don’t go away– they visit us again and again.

  4. I found your blog through a comment you left on http://writerdood.wordpress.com about the “Slush Pile.”

    Your post, “Writing is Flying,” touched me. You so aptly expressed the passion that writing possesses. I heartily agree with you that the true worth is in the experience of writing regardless if books sell or audiences applaud. Thank you for making my day!

    And thank YOU for making mine.–MS

  5. last time, i joined a writing contests on the internet and i won a small price for writing a nice piece of writing *-;

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