Sunday, May 4, 2014

Being a Writer

I ended up in Brookline on Marathon Monday so that I could attend a book reading given by Ayelet Waldman, who was there to promote her latest book, Love and Treasure. I'd been a long time fan of Waldman's and her particular brand of stirring up parenting controversy, but her latest book is a fictional account of the time just after the Holocaust and the present-day effects that time period still has. Jessica had given me an advance copy of the book after our conversation turned to the Holocaust in between some LTYM auditions, and I rushed to finish it before Waldman came to town.

I loved the book, but I loved getting to be in the room with Waldman even more. Instead of doing a traditional reading, she talked about her childhood interests, the other books she'd written, and how it all lead her to write this latest book. She spoke of how she evolved beyond writing about parenting, that even though writers are instructed to "write what they know," she felt she'd written all that already, so she decided to write about what she wanted to know. Waldman talked about the research process, and I found the entire thing enthralling.

Jessica and I had tweeted with Waldman in advance, and she must have looked at my blog, because when we came up to have her sign our books, Waldman said, "you're a writer, right?" I back-pedaled and laughed, as I've discussed this before with Jessica too. "Well, I work in finance..." and as my voice trailed off, Waldman cut me short and said, "no, you're a writer." We told her about LTYM, and she made me promise to send her my piece. I sent it to her yesterday, and she kindly shared it with her followers.

I left the reading joking with Jessica that if a writer like Waldman says I'm a writer, that it must be true. But I will probably always struggle with accepting that label. My blogging friend Sarah just wrote a post about this too. I can easily accept so many other mantles, but this "writer" one is tough. My inner critic, despite any external successes I have, refuses to let me believe that this part of me is valid. I'm not sure what it would take to change that, but maybe I don't need to accept it. Maybe writing is this thing I do mostly for me. Maybe if I admit how much I'm really trying, I have to also admit that it's the least successful part of my life. And maybe someday I'll just wake up one morning, and it'll be more clear.

I think Waldman struggles with this too. She mentioned a few times that she's a former attorney, that she even went to law school with Barack Obama. Perhaps we all get a little too tied up in labels, anyway. For now, I'll keep on writing what I know. Because I know I can't stop.

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