I read her book not because I cared a whit about fiction, but because I cared deeply about the friend who insisted I read it. "You have to read this book," she said. "You're going to love it!" I remember rolling my eyes at her but then she thrust it into my hands so what could I do? I read the book as a favor to her...not to be rude.
For many years I eschewed fiction. I had serious things to read about--medicine, spirituality, psychology, quantum theory...you know, the basics. Fiction was just...je ne sais quoi. Unproductive? Self-indulgent? Fun? God forbid fun!
The woman is Elizabeth Berg (http://www.elizabeth-berg.net) and the book was "Talk Before Sleep", published in 1994 although it didn't find its way into my hands until some ten years later. I loved her writing so much...I grew to detest her for it. Admiration (How can anyone write so well?) morphed into jealousy (Damn her!), then into despair (I will never be able to write like that!), and finally, into determination (But I can sure as hell try!). Now, four years later, The Bandaged Place is a novel. Not published, mind you. Not even queried yet, for that matter. But finished. One thing at a time, I say. Be patient, I tell myself...be patient.
If I ever meet Elizabeth Berg...or Anne Lamott or Sue Monk Kidd or Anna Quindlen or Anne Patchett, I swear I will kneel down on the rocky path before them and the countless magnificent writers like them. I will exalt them for giving voice to their experience, intuition and wisdom and thereby lending affirmation to mine. I love you guys! I want to be just like you when I grow up!
So...who do you want to be when you grow up?
"Envy is a con man, a tugger at your sleeve, a knocker on your door. Let me in just for a moment, it says, for one moment of your time...The antidote to envy is one's own work. Not the thinking about it. Not the assessing of it. But the doing of it."
In my next post I'll sing the praises of others who have helped me along the way and I'll tell you why.