Typical Individuality

Or How Diversity Unites Us

Lizz Schumer

Lizz Schumer
Buffalo, New York, USA
August 13
writer, editor, reporter, photographer, propagator and patron of the arts: all.
Author of "Buffalo Steel" (Black Rose Writing 2013), I'm the editor of a small newspaper in upstate New York, hold an MFA in creative writing from Goddard College. I also freelance for several publications, both print and online.


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APRIL 5, 2012 4:47PM

What I write about when I write about writing.

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I spend more time thinking about writing than actually writing. The thought of producing words, of stringing them together into phrases, then sentences, maybe, paralyzes my fingers, a shot of Novocain in each knuckle, hunched like little old men over the keys. Arthritic shoulders. Just as bald. I close my eyes and type sometimes, fingers flying before my head can strangle them. That feels safer. I don’t want to be the sort of girl who writes about writing, who sits in cafes staring out the window in that tortured artist sort of way, the light playing across her face in golden, wistful beams like it does in Indie movies about the futility of the entire exercise.

Sometimes, I look at myself from above and some part of me that hasn’t succumbed to myself just yet shakes her head in derision.

“What are you doing?” sky-me says. “Sitting there with your moleskine and your grande black coffee. Don’t let your plaid shirt gape at the chest. Hemingway, you are not.”

“What is any of us doing? What good is that question? What good is any question?”

There comes a point, sky-me thinks, when I’ve descended so deep into the labyrinthine cooridors of my own head, that I can’t even get a straight answer from myself.

My café-table self pushes her glasses up on her head, tangling in her second-day hair and sighs like the weight of the world is on her shoulders. She furiously scribbles out that line because it’s a cliché, and clichés mar the sacrosanct cleanliness of the page where original, inspired prose is just waiting to bloom.

Sometimes the writer’s life is really the lack thereof.

“What are you doing?” A new guy has asked me, eight days in a row and counting.

“Writing,” I answer. If writing is staring at the screen, waiting for something, or scribbling notes in my notebook about how I can’t think of what to write, or feverishly typing away because inspiration struck at 4 a.m. the morning before I have to work at 9. My muse is an insomniac.

 “Again? Don’t you ever get sick of writing?” he asked. If a text message could be incredulous, this one was.

“Constantly,” I answered.

I sip my coffee, flex my fingers and smile at the popping of my joints and write on. Trudge on, I could say. Except I swore off colorful language this week. It feels like fasting. It looks like a funeral.

And it occurs to me that I’ve written an entire essay about words before I’ve even opened the folder in which my manuscript lives. That words flow above, around and beneath it, but never into the white space that comprises the next chapter I have to have done by Wednesday, two weeks ago.

 Language is a cruel mistress. She always wants to go out and get wine-drunk on a Wednesday, but never has time on the weekend. She taps me on the shoulder when I’m out on the town and wants to hang out for hours, but stands me up in the coffee shop every time. We can have a fantastic time together one night, but she never calls the next day, or the day after that, but expects me to be ready for her whenever she wants.

 And I am.

Author tags:

life, books, mfa, procrastination, art, writing

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What a truly entertaining piece. I really liked it.
I refuse to write about writing, especially when people like you do it so well.
Well done! For me, it took a job as an editor of other people's writing to allow me to let go and do my own. Wishing you flowing fountains of words!
good piece. i loved 'second-day hair' and the description of Ms. Fickle Writing in the second sentence of that last paragraph.