August 3, 2010

how to make it into the acknowledgements

On the worst, last day of last month's heat wave, my friend J invited me over for a work date. I'd mentioned how I was finding it really hard to write and she told me she'd bought a second air conditioner for her apartment and that I ought to come over. She's working on her Ph.D. thesis (pure brilliance on Heidegger*), and has her own routines and preferences, as well as probably a pretty good sense of my writing quirks, no doubt due to me droning on and on about them now and again in the form of some sort of complaint.

Her invitation went something like this: "Do you prefer a desk or a couch? I've changed the sheets on my bed, so you can have a nap! I'll make us lunch and tea and cool drinks all day long! Here's the wireless password! I don't like music when I work, so it will be quiet. Is that okay?" (Is that okay? Can I kiss you?)

It can't always be easy to be friends with a writer. I have certain anti-social tendencies. I don't always like talking on the phone. (Not a hard and fast rule, by any means, but I've gotten out of the habit of making calls. When I sit down to use the landline at home, I usually catch myself dialing "9" first.) My friendships have adapted. We text. We email. We go on Google chat.

When the writing is going badly, I usually start to feel down and guilty and drop off the map. I miss everyone, but I don't know how to reach out when it feels like every little thing I'm doing is taking me away from the writing and I'm too miserable about it to have anything interesting to say. I'm grateful to know people who don't take this personally (or who can forgive or overlook this awful habit). I'm grateful, too, to have friends who can ask how the novel is going and be satisfied (and not visibly surprised) to receive the same answer, or variations on the same answer, ten times in a row.

I have friends who are writers, too, of course. We write a LOT of emails, then we get together when we can and drink and talk for four hours at a time. Once a month or thereabouts. Sometimes longer.

I've been feeling really lucky lately for the people in my life. I feel like they put up with me, and they prop me up. They inspire me, too. Trying to be a better friend is something that makes it onto my list of resolutions year after year.

J., naturally, was as good as her word. Her apartment was a cool paradise. She made incredible, unearthly food (yummy spicy rice and dumplings), endless tea, and fascinating refreshing tonics involving lime juice and rosewater. We sat and worked quietly (and sometimes talked), as her boyfriend generously left us to our own devices, and I made some critical headway in reading over my manuscript after a lot of days in a row of heat-induced mind mush.

* I have only a passing familiarity with Heidegger, and I haven't read her thesis, but I am assured of its brilliance nonetheless. And I'm certain that when I do read it, I'll find out everything I need to know about the big H.

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