Life Intervenes

October 14, 2011

Yesterday morning as I was vacuuming for probably the first time in a couple of months, my silk scarf was suddenly sucked up into the machine, yanking the hell out of my neck and giving me a pretty crummy wake up call.  “Are you kidding me?” I thought. “I’m going to die doing housework?” At least Isadora Duncan was riding in an open top car in Nice when her scarf led to her downfall.  

I know we’ve all had these fatal visions: choking on a Dunkin’ Munchkin, running off the road while fiddling with the radio, being run off the road while riding your bike or walking your dog. And we’re certain our last thoughts will be some variation of Why didn’t I? Why didn’t I check the weather? Why didn’t I stay home? Why didn’t I chew more thoroughly? Why didn’t I listen to my mom? You can fill in the blank.

So I spent the rest of the morning rubbing my neck and contemplating the unsettling phrase, “She died doing what she loved,” and then I wondered if I’d ever get my act together and finish editing my book so if I did in fact die doing what I loved I’d have something to leave behind other than a partially cleaned rug. I recently gave an interview to a magazine I used to screen fiction for where I said, once again, that I was in the final stages of finishing my book and I needed to get ready to send it off. Admitting that made me a little queasy. I’d planned on sending it off a year ago. A year ago. 

A phrase I often like to use whenever I get stuck in the writing process is Life Intervenes, as if that’s an excuse for anything. Life intervenes for all of us in some way—we move, we take new jobs, or we get married or we have kids or we get sick or the kids get sick or the parents get sick or a tree falls on the roof or the water heater explodes—you know what I mean.

Not my house, thankfully.

And then a scarf gets caught in the vacuum cleaner or a big bite of burrito clogs the airways and I’m quickly reminded that everything I do is life, whether it’s flossing my teeth or watching my son’s first cross-country meet or going to the library with my daughter to find just one more book to read rather than working on my own. And once again I tell myself to get my act together, to face the truth that’s there’s a limit to how long I can keep my nose buried in the laptop before I have to admit the book’s as good as it’s going to get and if it gets accepted or rejected it’s not going to be because I have a perfectly placed semi-colon on page 172.

Goes with almost anything . . .

So I will do my best. In the meantime, here’s that interview I just gave, posted on the Ploughshares blog where I discuss editorial pet peeves, egalitarian reading tastes, and how strange it seems now to have grown up in the pre-Internet, pre-blog age.


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