Writing Sprints



Every Sunday since early January, I have met with a friend at my favorite coffee shop. (On Nantucket, we lack in many things, but coffee is not one of them. I try to split my time and my money between a few.)

We talk a bit about the week, and then write until we can’t anymore, or until the coffee shop girls start turning down the lights and start scrubbing the floor with disinfectant. The smell of bleach is not as inviting as the smell of coffee beans. We take the hint.

This has been a good practice, because as much as I try to write every day, there are always a couple of days where something comes up, or I have to put a paid writing job at the top of my priority list instead of working on my (second? third? fourth? how do you count? do you only count the good ones? if we are only counting the good ones, it’s the second) novel. Then there are the short stories, poems, essays…

…and this blog.

Writing with someone, even just sitting across the table, in silence, with only the sound of fingers flying across the keys, feels different than writing alone.

Sometimes, when I am particular stuck and trying to unravel a long thread, or find the right words, or just words in general, I think about running. In particular, how running was something I never thought I could do. It took time and practice, and is still difficult. But in the years since I started, I’ve run farther than I’ve ever dreamed I could.

Then, when I am running (usually about…uh…right away) I have to remind myself of all the words I have written. Remember when you couldn’t write a story longer than 6,000 words? You’ve written things 10 times that! Get it in gear!

I keep exercising–running, indoor cycling, whatever–because it helps my unravel my writing thoughts. It reminds me that  I can do more now than I could in the past.

The thing about writing and running is, it’s easier to keep going if there’s someone to help you set the pace.


Pretend You are Talking to a Friend


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I have written before that in Provincetown in February, the dead outnumber the living. On a frigid, so-clear-you-can-see-to-Plymouth day, it seems especially true.

Yesterday, I drove down from Hyannis to Provincetown for the funeral, or celebration of life, of a well-known town character. It was cold–just hovering around 20 degrees–and the town was empty. Most sane people were home, where it was warm.

The service was in the Unitarian Universalist church, an old 1840s era building with two chapels and trompe l’oeil  frescoes adorning the walls. The same artist painted the UU church on Nantucket.

In the 1840s, the two towns must have shared more similarities than they do now. Nantucket in the 1840s was a world center. Somewhere along the way (I’d say 1916), Provincetown became the more cosmopolitan of the two. It’s hard to know if those kind of distinctions hold any meaning in the hyper-connected world we are in today. Sure, “the world comes to Nantucket,” but I don’t need to wait for the world to come to me anymore. (However, still I wait.)

The celebration was particularly moving because it was for someone had lived their life exactly the way they had wanted to. This meant no “traditional” family structure. There was no wife, no husband, no children. No brothers or sisters–a cousin and a college roommate were the ones who’d known him the longest.

But there were friends. Drinking buddies, coworkers, hangers-on. Pals, sympaticos, confidantes. There were friends whose relationships blurred over the years–from more than friends to friends and back again.

There was a woman in a fabulous fur coat in the spartan chapel. (The former Hicksite Quakers who became some of the first Universalists were rolling in their unmarked graves.)

He was not alone at the end, the confidante tells us. I think the entire church sighed in relief.

(Pretend you are talking to a friend.)