In 1989, Joanne Palmer left a publishing career in Manhattan and has missed her paycheck ever since. She is a mom, weekly columnist for the Steamboat Pilot & Today, and the owner of a property management company, The House Nanny. Her new book "Life in the 'Boat: How I fell on Warren Miller's skis, cheated on my hairdresser and fought off the Fat Fairy" is now available in local bookstores and online at booklocker.com or amazon.com.
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Joanne Palmer's Life in the 'Boat column appears Wednesdays in the Steamboat Today. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Find more columns by Palmer here.
Steamboat Springs Recently, someone asked me if I have any insecurities as a writer. I had to respond, "How much time do you have?"
I have never met a secure writer. I've met neurotic writers, depressed writers, wildly creative writers, but master-of-the universe secure writers? Nope.
Writers are curious creatures who obsess about the English language, word usage, word choices and words in general. For example, is it better to write: John walked into the room, or John skipped into the room? What mood was John in when he came into the room? Maybe he was angry, in which case the sentence should read: John stormed into the room, or John stomped into the room. But how angry is John? Is he in a fury? A murderous rage? Is he mad at his spouse, or did he just trip over the sleeping dog, stub his toe and is only mad at himself? How old is John, what color is his hair and what kind of shoes is John wearing? If he is wearing flip-flops, he can't really stomp, can he? The possibilities are endless, and only a truly strange person would torment herself this way, sometimes on a daily basis.
Accountants or other number-crunchers are lucky. Two plus two is always going to equal four. However, a noun and a verb are not always going to equal a great sentence. There is no correct way to begin a story, but rather thousands of ways to start. This is what makes writing so exciting and so maddening all at the same time. A writer's mind is constantly churning, sifting and sorting words and phrases to figure out what is the best.
Writers do lots of strange things. They love to eavesdrop. In fact, I know a writer who has a special gizmo she puts in her ear to give her greater range. Kent Haruf, the author of "Plainsong," wrote his book blindfolded in a cold, windowless room in his basement. Stephen King wrote "Carrie" on a typewriter situated between his washer and dryer, and Andre Dubus penned "The House of Sand and Fog" on a legal pad in his car that he parked in a graveyard. Who could bother him there?
As for insecurities, I will confess to being terrified of running out of ideas for this column. Every week I wait for "the voice" to speak to me. I didn't think this was any big deal until one of my friends pointed out that I was hearing voices. She started asking me pointed questions: Is this a big, booming God-voice? A little whisper? A nagging Mom-type voice? Before she could put me in a straightjacket, I changed the subject.
After "the voice" visitation, I sit down at the computer and begin to write. Then, ding! An e-mail pops into my box and I have to see what it is. Great! A chain e-mail that hints at disaster if I don't immediately forward to eight friends. Forward e-mail. Type, type. type. Wait! What is my bank balance? Phew, money for groceries. Type, type, type. What are the headlines on Yahoo!? "British supermarket will no longer charge more for bigger bras." (I did not make that up, and of course I read it.) Type, type, type. What about local news? A quick scan of the Steamboat Pilot & Today shows 12 more inches of snow on the way. Hmmmmm, keep typing or go back to bed? Type, type, type. Check word count. Am I reaching my 600-word limit? Gosh, all of this typing is making me hungry. Better have a snack. And more coffee. Type, type, type. Hooray, finished!
Maybe next week I'll try writing blindfolded.