By Rachel Lippolis
As a child, I was especially fond of corners. On the playground, where two chain-linked fences met at a 90-degree angle, I crouched and watched—who played with whom?—who teased whom? I catalogued their gestures and their strange and natural ways of speaking.
Everything for them seemed so spontaneous, and this fascinated me. I was too shy to join them, but by observing and recording, I shared in their experiences. This is what writing became for me—a way to participate.
As an adult, writing has taken a backseat to whatever else has been happening in my life: going to work, spending time with friends and family, going on vacation, dating, and getting married. I would try to find ways to squeeze it in—I blogged for the library where I worked; I wrote reflective pieces that helped shape my teaching; and for about 8 glorious months, I wrote the first draft of a novel while working at the library only twenty hours each week.
Lately, I get a couple hours on Saturday mornings; I get an hour before I have to get ready for work (well, 45 minutes—I stare blankly at the screen for 15 minutes as my coffee takes effect); I get random spare moments in the evening when I’m able to push out the rest of the noise and focus. Any time I spend writing and revising and thinking solely about this stupid novel feels like a gift.
In June, I gave myself a weeklong gift when I participated in the Novel Writing Workshop at Kenyon College, and it was better than just about any other present. I spent seven days and six nights focused solely on fiction writing—my own, the other participants’, the instructors’, and more. We lived in dorm rooms, toting our laptops 15 minutes across campus for workshops and lessons and exercises that were so much more relevant and practical than anything I’d done before. The other students were kind, intelligent, curious, and often hilarious in an introverted writerly way. On evenings when no activities were scheduled, we still gathered together with our laptops and wine (when there wasn’t coffee, there was wine) to write and laugh and write some more.
Today, I’m closer to producing a final manuscript that I’m proud of and that I want to share (someday) with others. That first draft I finished so long ago has been shredded and rearranged. Some of my favorite paragraphs gone, my darlings dead. I’ve even dropped what had been the driving force of the book. But in its place is something closer to what I had imagined all those years ago when I started.
I no longer need writing to participate in life from a safe distance. Rather, writing allows me to be part of some wonderful communities and to meet some awesome people, from the folks at Kenyon and my fellow Voices of August participants to George Rede and Tonja, my friend and writing partner. Now I am both crouched in my corner—watching, recording, and understanding—and planted on the playground—teasing, engaging, and empathizing.
Rachel Lippolis and her husband recently celebrated their second year of marriage with a trip to Japan, traveling from Tokyo to Kyoto to Hiroshima. She continues to work at the library and enjoys being an aunt to two nephews.
Editor’s note: About six years ago, soon after I started my blog, I stumbled upon Perfect Sand. It was an engaging compilation of posts about books, current events and writing. Through it, I came to know Rachel, the Ohio-based author. We still have yet to meet but I imagine we’d get along well, both of us having moved out from our respective corners of the playground.
Tomorrow: “Sons of God” by Parfait Bassale