Molly Fisk: Different Strokes

I’ve been a writer for 30 years but have not made a living from my creative writing. Only about three people in the country make a living from their own creative writing, and usually it’s after the sixth or seventh book. I’ve made my living from teaching creative writing, as well as helping people write resumes, blog posts, wedding vows, and other one-time assignments, and now, also, for the last five years, as that consummate 21st century California cliché, a life coach. About a third of my coaching clients are writers. I help them with planning books, sticking to a schedule, overcoming writer’s block, meeting deadlines . . . stuff like that.

Sometimes, like this morning, I have a little private fit about grammar. How is it possible, I say to myself, that someone could get this far in life and not remember the quotation mark goes OUTSIDE the comma, for Pete’s sake?!?! This is what happens when you do something for a long time: you forget that not everyone is spending her morning taking sentences apart. Dental hygienists all over the land are probably saying privately to themselves, How is it possible that someone could get this far in life and still not FLOSS!! I have to remind myself that whenever I want to make hard boiled eggs I go look in a cookbook and find out, again, how long to boil them, while any chef and probably every parent has this by heart.

People know what they know, and remember what they remember, and nobody is exactly like you, or, in this case, me. Yet I think many of us walk around town thinking that people are very much like us, and not only know what we know but also would do what we would do. Which is why it’s so startling when they suddenly break out and start voting differently from us, or make some racist/sexist/chowder-headed remark that we find entirely offensive.

This is a fascinating and humbling feature of the universe, don’t you think?

The other thing about life I find interesting is how much the larger world is reflected in the specific and personal moment. Right when you’re about to have a very strong opinion regarding Israel and Palestine, for instance, you can just bet one of your neighbors will put up his new fence eight inches on your side of the property line, and there you are, dealing with issues of territory, cooperation, fairness, and compromise. Not to mention frustration, disappointment, righteous indignation, and the rest of Pandora’s Box. I won’t get into the specifics of conflict in the Middle East, which I am ill-equipped to discuss, but when two people can’t even calmly agree about fence placement, it suddenly makes more sense that whole countries might have a hard time with some of their differences.

The question really isn’t “Why are there always wars going on?” it’s “How have we not killed each other off already?!?” And for that, dear reader, despite being good with words, I’m afraid I have no answer.

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