Thursday, January 21, 2010

Indeed, the great paradox of the writer's life is how much time he spends alone trying to connect with other people. - Betsey Lerner

The Big Freeze (BBC News moniker) is finally over in the Highlands. From 17 December we were a frozen wasteland; I love this photo, which was on the BBC website for many days as the deluge of snow continued. It gave Britain good reason to talk about what they love to talk about most. And it trapped us inside, with only our thoughts, our dreams, and our televisions for company.

I often wonder if my friends here see me as a sociable loner. Most post-The Big Freeze comments tend to focus on the stir-crazy nature of being inside all day, forcing us to self-entertain. "There's only so many reruns of Friends that you can watch," one friend said last week. Am I weird because I enjoyed it? I liked being stuck inside, not feeling guilty for staying in with a book rather than going out into the (very cold) world and shopping, consuming, scaling mountains, going for beers, etc. I liked that I could catch up on friends' blogs, read two-month-old magazines, watch Season 4 of The Wire, and cook up big pots of chili to last days. In the entrapment of a foot of snow, I found freedom.

I'm midway through The Forest for the Trees, where I found the above quotation. Lerner's years of editing and agenting have made her a sensitive observer of the craft, and her insights are both calming and encouraging. Writers are desperate to connect, though have always connected better through words on a page. We're the children with our noses in a book at the age of 4; we're the teenagers furiously scribbling in a tattered journal after an argument; we're the adults who will finish a book that resonates and immediately read it again to figure out how the author made us feel that way. And we spend hours re-reading our own work, obsessing over how minute details will be perceived by readers, wondering if it's good enough. Wondering if we're good enough.

1 comment:

Expat mum said...

They wouldn't last five minutes in Chicago. We go all winter without seeing our neighbours.