Back in the late 80's, my friend Dana and I used to dream about being writers. We were roommates and co-workers, stuck in corporate hell together. But living in Laguna Beach, California was a kind of salve to our wounds. She'd jog or play volleyball on Main beach. I'd sit on the terrace of some beach-side restaurant and smell the ocean and become deeply sad, taking in the vastness of it all. This was my überintellectual way of avoiding any form of exercise. I also hate sand.
Dana and I share a character flaw: living vicariously through other writers. Living vicariously is a nice way of putting it. Sleeping with writers is more accurate, but we weren't only sleeping with them. We were willing vessels of all their writerly emanations.
Dana slept with a famous writer first, while renting a room in another famous writer's home. She was more focused than me. I was busy sleeping with various corporate suits or fiddle players or artists. I was unclear about my career objectives, evidently. But when my last artist boyfriend (and I mean LAST - I was nevereverever going to sleep with an artist again, ever!) ditched me in 2005 on Valentines Day (timing is, of course, everything), I became reallyreallyreally clear about being a writer. Really. Well, I also wanted to be a stand-up comedian. So I took a class from a hot comedy coach. Unfortunately, even though he was a most excellent teacher, he wouldn't sleep with me because I was too old (his age). Fine. I never liked his powder blue cowboy boots, anyway. OK? OK. (Love ya Tony!)
While still trying to sleep with my comedy coach, I finally met my very own artist-in-residence. What I mean to say is that he was homeless, so I let him live in my residence. He was a formerly-famous music critic, or as he would angrily correct me, a cultural critic. He was adorable! He quickly insulted and alienated all of my friends and let me pay the legal fees for his divorce from a formerly-famous rock star. I was so honored. He also couldn't stand living with me in an Arizona backwater, ironically called Carefree. He said, "Nobody's going to hire me as Their Man In Carefree." So I quit my cushy-but-insane corporate job, sold everything I owned and moved us to France, in hopes that somebody would hire him as Their Man In Paris. Then, I could be the girlfriend of somebody's Man In Paris!
At least I was writing. About the time I adopted him, I discovered blogging. So, during the first couple years in Paris, I blogged like a banshee while he ran around in circles, pulling at his hair. He was incredibly supportive of my writing, though. His compliments were valued, since he hated just about everybody and made sure that if he hated you, you knew about it. If he said my writing was good, then it was. But we had huge fights about my use of commas. Verbal brawls about commas. To this day, I have comma anxiety. I either leave them out completely or throw in a few extras to cover my ass.
Once a month or so, he'd write a sentence. I would listen, transfixed, as he read me that sentence. It was always a good sentence. An excellent sentence. And I hoped that very soon, this sentence, or maybe the other three sentences he'd written that year, would become a book, or maybe just an article, or perhaps a pamphlet. And that this book, article, pamphlet would pay our overhead, or at least buy cat food. Just in case, I thought I'd better go out and get a job so that he could write even more sentences.
I bet you can imagine how all that turned out. It used to be his ex-wife's fault that he's the way he is (whatever that is). Then it became all my fault. Somehow, I had the presence of mind to leave him. He is now free to write sentences to his heart's content, without my soul-destroying support interference. I hear he's doing undercover journalism by living on a park bench and reporting on the underbelly of Paris life. Or, something like that.
I still have my university job. In between classes, I run around in circles, pull at my hair, and write 4,378 sentences. Someday, I hope they become a book, or maybe an article, or perhaps a pamphlet.
Meanwhile, Dana's famous writer landlord recently departed this world, with a rigor mortis grip on a bottle of scotch. And while she's still friends with her famous former writer lover, she wonders what in hell she saw in him since he's just a neurotic pain in the ass. Live and learn! I'm pretty sure that neither one of us will have sex again for at least 50 years. This whole wanting-to-be-a-writer thing has taken its toll.
Dana stayed in corporate America, and graciously followed my life in Paris through my blog. She sees me as her hero - somebody who escaped corporate hell to become a writer. I have to say that I don't regret ... I am happy ... the jury is still out on this whole sell-everything-move-to-Paris-with-boyfriend-to-become-a-writer thing. But I was very touched when Dana emailed me a month or so ago and told me that she'd gotten a bonus at work and wanted to share some of it with me, to encourage me to write. I decided to not apply this gift to my rent or other expenses, but instead, I registered for a Guardian Master Class workshop on novel writing.
I can see my former boyfriend's not-so-silent disapproval now. "You always think you have to take a class to learn something. Just write." He's right. It's one of the things I hated the most about him. How often he was right, about many things. But, he was just such a dick about it. You can be right. Just don't be a dick, OK? If we were still together, I'd probably say, "Nobody knows, better than you, that I seriously need, to learn about commas."
I just wrote hundreds of sentences and still haven't told you about the writing class. But, (comma? no comma? OK, comma.) I felt like I needed to give you a little (haha!) back story. Stay tuned. Soon I'll write hundreds of sentences to report on my class and trip to London. Comments about my comma use will be immediately deleted.