I once knew a writer in one of the few writing groups I ever was a part of whose first drafts were all touched by God and needed no editing. Scarily brilliant, eerie, and perfect. This state of affairs seemed extremely unfair except that she had other problems that included but were not limited to a child she didn't like all that much, a third husband who hadn't turned out any better than the first two, and a deep aversion to regular hair washing. She spoke the truth all the time, whether it was a good idea or not, and once said about forgetting workshop, I got busy shovelling dog shit. What the fuck do you want from me? I can still see her, hand on hip, t-shirt that said Jenny Craig Is A Bitch. She had never had a weight problem so this seemed an odd choice for her venom, but there you have it. I couldn't help but like her, try as I might not to, try as she might to make me not. She made me laugh even when she made me cringe, having that peculiar instinct for the faultlines of people's egos and going for them with a vengeance. I knew I had made significant progress as a writer when she said, I was dreading reading your story and thought boring, fucking boring and then I was shocked as shit that it wasn't. It didn't seem like you at all. It was so good. Coming from her, it felt as if I'd won the Pulitzer.
When people ask me if writer's groups are a good idea, I come back to this experience which was a doozy. We'd often meet at her house as she was afraid to leave it and watch the roaches scurry on the floor. They were so bad that we'd have to appoint someone to keep watch over the snacks and make sure they didn't invade anything we'd brought as they were always dropping from the cabinets and whatnot. I suppose it goes without saying that she was not remotely together enough to make it to a store. I hate grocery stores. All those people and food. God! I was in my early twenties at this point, my workshop friend in her late thirties. You're going to love your thirties, Michelle. I make list of all the things I'll miss about myself when I die. I was dying to see her list, but she never gave up the goods. Some things are private, she'd say. Do you have a Tampax? I am so fucking miserable right now. You wouldn't believe, she'd start, and I'd wonder what the hell could be on the list that was more private than what she'd already revealed. What I did know that it was probably a first draft and more brilliant than anything I'd be writing.
Michelle's Spell of the Day
"The supreme happiness in life is the conviction of being loved not for yourself, but in spite of yourself." Victor Hugo
Drinking music suggestion: Tumble Home Amy Hempel
Benedictions and Maledictions