I’m working on my new book for Warner and it’s my favorite part of writing—the non-writing. I love it. I don’t sit at the computer more than an hour at a stretch. I get to read nearly all day. I make notes, on note cards. I scribble in margins. I highlight text in my books, underline phrases in articles, bend corners of pages I want to reread again later. I’m a schoolgirl, only happier, because I get to pick, and control, my areas of learning.
I always wanted this. In fourth grade I begged my parents to let me attend a free school, one of those non-structured schools I read about in England where kids pursue subjects that interest them and drive and direct their own studies. I loved the idea that I didn’t have to read in only twenty minute blocks of time, followed by forty minutes of math, followed by ten minutes recess, followed by thirty minutes history and so on. Instead I could immerse myself in literature and history for hours. I could just read and read and read. I even designed my own school—sketched out the curriculum, philosophy as well as the school site itself. No prison classrooms. Atriums filled with light. Couches to lounge on. Reading nooks with wonderful pillows and lights.
I still love to read curled up, a pen tucked behind my ear ready to make notes and when I read great non-fiction books, or illuminating research articles, my brain starts humming and making little clicking associations and the neurons are all firing and I’m like the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang car when it’s getting ready to fly. I love that feeling of being on and aware and alert and alive and I only get that very cough-cough-zoom-bing feeling when I read, and analyze, and think.
I love thinking. It feels fantastic. And this week I’m reading a fascinating book titled In The Company of Women, with the subtitle Indirect Aggression Among Women: Why We Hurt Each Other and How To Stop. It sounds dry, and parts of it are very dry, and yet it’s also excellent reading as it answers questions I’ve been asking myself, as well as answering the questions my next two Warner books put forth to life.
During this, the favorite part of my writing, I’m not a novelist but an anthropologist, a sociologist, a psychologist, a linguist, a philosopher, as well as something of a mad scientist.
I write to understand things. People. Women. Me. I write to predict, to clarify, to defend, to define. It’s exciting and taxing and rewarding and frustrating. It’s exactly what I want to do, who I want to be. Learning things, gaining new knowledge, reassessing old beliefs–this for me is the highest and the greatest.
Why do I write?
Why am I a mommy that works?
It’s not because I don’t want to be with my kids, and it’s not because I enjoy the long hours at the keyboard. But I write and work because I love this part, the part where I’m so excited about life, and so deeply interested in a topic, that my brain lights up, and zings, and I absolutely hum with good intentions and good will.
When I’m learning something, when I’m working to a better understanding of us, our culture, our conflicts, today–this hour, this moment–is absolutely perfect.