A Portrait of the Artist at the Bookstore

On Friday, I went to the local cafe-bookstore, and I dedicated myself to a full day of writing.  I got there around 10:45 AM and I wasn’t going home until my boyfriend was going to pick me up on his way back from a family dinner, which I knew would probably be around 7:30 PM.  I was committed, and I felt great about it.

Except that I got there later than I wanted to.  And then the table I wanted in the cafe was taken.  And then my mom, who was going to meet me for a coffee and hang out for a while, had to leave as soon as she walked through the door to take care of an issue that had cropped up elsewhere.

But despite these setbacks and the heartbreaking lack of the corner table with the outlet, I ordered myself a salted caramel chai and I got to work.

And let me tell you, that chai was delicious.  I mean it was amazing.  It was the kind of chai people could write poetry about – the chai that brews in adversity, and all that sort of thing.  But despite the remarkable quality of my chai latte, I didn’t get much work done.  My mom ended up coming back when I’d only written a couple pages, and I spent the next hour-plus chatting and eating and otherwise ignoring the goals I’d set for myself.

However.  I am happy to say that after we got lunch at the food court in the mall next door, I returned to my post to find my corner table available once more.  I bought myself a simple cup of hot tea.  I plugged in my laptop.  I sprinted through the next few pages.

For the next four hours or so, I sat right there and I wrote.  Or at least, I alternated between writing and watching videos of other people talking about writing (but hey – that’s still pretty good for me).

My friends, I ended up writing ten pages that day.  That’s twice the number I usually do in a day!  I’m sure that’s not impressive by many standards, but for me that was quite a feat.  And when I was done, I bought myself the last slice of peanut butter cheesecake as a reward.

And it tasted awesome.  The sweet flavor of peanut-buttery success.

Not that I want these posts to be prescriptive or Ptolemaic, but as I’m writing this, I’m realizing something that I know will be helpful for me in the future, and maybe it will be helpful for anyone else seeing this too.  This day of mine serves as a good reminder: we can’t compare ourselves to others.  Success for me may not look like success for you, and vice versa.  We don’t need to accomplish the same as others in order to feel good about what we’ve done.  Set goals that challenge you but that, if you stretch, you can reach – and never feel bad about rewarding yourself when you succeed.

Turning Seasons

Sweet September.  No matter what else is going on, what stress I’m facing or what mental health issues I might be battling, there’s something about September.  Even when I don’t want summer to go, when September arrives it’s like I fall in love with it all over again.  Maybe it’s the air, the cool crispness of it.  Maybe it’s the leaves turning amber and making the whole world smell sweet and musty.  Maybe it’s the lingering feeling of that back-to-school excitement.  I honestly don’t know, but especially in New England, September brings a special kind of magic.

I wish I could talk about what I’ve been writing, but it’s too close, too fragile, too sweet.  Too alive, still.  I need to wait for it to ripen.

I wish I could listen to the album The Huntress and Holder of Hands is releasing next week.  Ever since Ireland, I’ve been obsessed with their song “Borealis” (you can listen here) and I know their album is going to be the soundtrack to my fall.

I wish I could fragment my days into shards, increase their surface area so I could fit more inside.  I want to read and write and love and finally finish Until Dawn.

I wish I had the energy to make everything in my life look beautiful, instead of just a smattering of curated images.

But while wishing is not necessarily a bad thing (especially at this time of year, when it feels as though we’re moving into the season when fairy tales take place), it’s also important to recognize those goals we have already achieved.

For the first time in a long while, I’m reading again.  Last week I read The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, which was a non-stop delight.  For the first time possibly ever, I’m writing every single day.  I’m keeping my spaces clean and tidy.  I’m nurturing my relationships.  I’m thinking about ways that I can better manage my life.  Things are good for me right now.  I hope they are for you as well.


Lately I’ve had this feverish desire to just create – to make things and to get sucked into stories.  I was feeling this to some extent before I left for Ireland, but something about the beauty and peace and magic of it, paired with having some time and distance from home, brought my sense of this from focus to urgency.

Don’t get me wrong, having the inspiration and motivation to write, having the focus to be consumed by stories again, has been nice.  More than nice.  It’s been essential, and it’s been nourishing, and it’s been, frankly, a relief.  But it does concern me a bit too.  I can’t help but feel that something is a little wrong.

A week or two before my trip, I spent a day at a bookstore – an entire day.  I used to do this a lot but hadn’t had the chance in well over a year.

For seven-and-a-half hours, I revised, wrote, and read.  I immersed myself completely in lives that were not my own, and it felt good in a way similar to how Ireland felt good.  Some of this, I’m sure, is because now that I’m done with school, I’m free to focus my creative energy on only what I want, whatever it is.  Some of it is that I’m working on something that’s exciting to me.  But I do worry about how much of it is just plain old escapism.

I have the sense that I’m running, maybe.  Turning away maybe.  Only I don’t know what from.  Like there’s a monster chasing me but I haven’t seen it yet, I can only sense its presence there behind me, every once in a while hear a twig snap.

Something I learned about castles in Ireland: beautiful as they are, enchanting as they are, there’s something inherently mysterious about them too, and you have the sense that you never quite understand them completely, or know what’s going on inside them.

I’m like my own castle right now – expansive and dark in the corners, with hidden passages and ancient foundations – and even I don’t know what could be haunting my halls.

A Visit to the Old World

Last week I made one of my oldest dreams come true with one of my best friends.  I went to Ireland!  I suppose it’s a bit cliche, but Ireland has always seemed to call to me.  Even as a little kid, I longed for it – before I even knew what the emotion was.  I dreamed about its green, its magic, its seeming connection to the stories I loved.  Going there now, as an adult, I knew to be wary – that the reality was probably not the dreamscape I had in my head.  Generally, I think that’s probably a good mindset to have when we confront the things we’ve spent our lives wishing for.  But Ireland is an exception.

Let me answer for you some of the questions I had (and secretly hoped to see answered in certain ways).  Yes, that green is real.  Yes, there are a lot of castles.  Yes, there are so many medieval ruins that sometimes you just see them on the side of the road as you drive by.  Yes, the people really are that nice.  Yes, you can feel echoes of past life there.  Yes, it is unspeakably beautiful.  Yes, it truly does feel haunting.  Ireland is its own myth.  It’s like a legend of itself.  But it exists in our reality, somehow.

We drove through a place called Healy Pass sometime around the exact middle of our trip.  We found this little waterfall, pulled over to the side of the road, and just sat by it for a while, watching the water pass by over the rocks and beneath a stone bridge, listening to its crashing in the otherwise quiet hills, feeling the wind whip our hair.  I could have stood in this spot forever.  I felt so at peace – so at home – here.  I felt like a very particular part of me, maybe a part divorced from those with which I’m most familiar, belonged there.

It must have been the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen.  I don’t, generally, consider myself to be an especially spiritual person.  I am a “true agnostic,” as Leah told me.  But it’s hard not to believe in something else, even just a little bit, in Ireland.  There were places, like I said, where I felt full-body peace – and there were others where I felt a not insubstantial amount of unease.  The differences between these places, I couldn’t tell you – maybe it’s all imagined – but Ireland follows you home, I’ve come to realize, like a ghost.

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