DEAR CAROL

Dear Carol,

I hope you’ll forgive me for writing out of the blue. Though I don’t think anyone has ever objected to receiving a letter out of the blue, I feel like I should explain: Rachel mentioned you were reading Big Magic.

As it so happens, I purchased a copy of Big Magic last September. It’s been kept in various places: in my bag for a while, waiting for a quiet moment when I would be stuck on a train or early to a party, then on my bookshelf, then on top of my record player buried under a stack of papers, and, most recently, on my desk. But Rachel mentioned you recommended it so I picked it up again.

I’ve been reading it on the bus to work. I should take the metro to work–its faster, more direct, warmer to wait for–but I like the bus. I like how I get on early enough in the route that I can get a seat within two or three stops. I like how there are at least two elementary schools along the route so I can make faces at babies for the first ten minutes. I like how, if I get a window seat, I can press my face to the glass and soak up the sunshine like a lizard. I like how some of the older buses have wood paneling and padded vinyl benches and I feel like I’m in someone’s living room from the seventies. I like how it’s enough time to make a dent in a book.

Did you know that, a few years back, I decided I wanted to get my MFA in Creative Writing? (What I really mean is, ‘did Rachel know and then pass along the information that a few years back I decided I wanted to get my MFA in Creative Writing?) When I was a kid, there was nothing I wanted more desperately than to be a writer. That’s not true. When I was a kid, there was nothing I wanted more desperately than to get lost in a book. I started writing because my parents would not let me live at the library, getting lost in books all day.

I don’t write much anymore. I mean, I write these letters and text messages and Instagram captions, but I don’t write fiction much anymore. At least, not the way I used to. I spent a good part of my life dreaming and working and trying to be a writer. I really enjoyed writing, I was vaguely good at it, so why not hinge my entire livelihood and happiness to it? It got exhausting. I was unhappy for a lot of other reasons and put a lot of pressure on writing to save me. Writing made me more miserable, not less. So I stopped.

I stopped for so long, I thought I’d never start again. I got afraid that I’d never write, not the way I used to, so I decided to apply to grad school. I thought it might fix the voice in my head that I said I wasn’t good enough, both in general and to write.

Not to spoil the ending, but I didn’t go to grad school. I figured I’d take time to figure things out. That was in 2015. I’m still taking time. I’ve learned to feel a little less guilty about taking my time. This book helped. This book helped a lot.

So all of this is to say: I needed to read Big Magic. Not just as someone who used to love to, who still loves to, who has a complicated relationship with writing, but as a creative person, as a human, in general.

I’m sending this card with Rachel to New Orleans next week so that you can write someone and share a bit of magic with them. Let me know if you have any other book recommendations!

All my very best,

Madelyne

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