Philip Roth publicly announced that Nemesis will be his last book and that he will no longer write more novels. On his computer is a post-it note that says “The struggle with writing is over.”
He said he decided that he will publish no more works back in 2010 but kept it inside to make sure it was true. “I’m not Frank Sinatra.”, he says in an article from New York Times. He said all he has to say, Mr. Roth confidently claims. After two years of contemplating whether to write or not, and if he indeed did not write anything in 2 years, then I guess his time is over with writing. But if he is proved wrong, and the desire to write creeps up again, there won’t be any stopping it. He will simply have to obey. But I wish him a very good retirement. He deserves it after a life-long dedication to his writing life. It’s a life quite like a military regiment life style. The only difference is, you have to fight alone.
I have a secret passion. I want to be a bartender. I am a barista so I am kind of like a bartender. I just play with coffee instead of alcohol. But for the longest time, I have always wanted to become a bartender. However, being a writer always wins out, and I let that little passion of mine pass. Not that those two vocations can’t go hand in hand- they can, and I know at least one well-known writer who was a bartender in the past(Elizabeth Gilbert)- but I have my own issues that prevent me from working nights and around alcohol. My heightened mood spirals down throughout the day and by late afternoon I cannot take on much pressure. The social butterfly that I am in the morning becomes quite a solitary person. It’s time for me to retire into the quiet solitude of reading and praying. Of course, some drinking might elevate my mood and temporarily do the trick if I were forced to work in those down times, but before long I will end up as an alcoholic. I have an addictive personality, and alcoholism runs in my family history. So instead, I work at the coffee shop and work just enough to support myself while I let it fulfill my heart’s desire of working at the bar to some degree.
“So what’s your availability like? Can you work at nights?”, C asks during our conversation yesterday at work. I had just told her that I’ve always wanted to become a bartender. I don’t know how to answer her question. “Well, I become a completely different person at night and I don’t want to force myself to socialize in that mood.” That sounds a bit too heavy for our light conversation. What about this one? “I was an alcoholic before so it’s best to stay away from those scenes.” After measuring my options I go for the third.
“It doesn’t work with my lifestyle.”
Very vague and broad. I liked my answer. It’s my life, and I can live it anyway I want. What I want is not to simply answer my cravings and fantasies. I want a structured life, a disciplined one, one I had so carefully tailored, and I want to fit into my perfectly tailored life. I paid a high price(mentally more than anything) to find this fit.
“You can change your lifestyle!”, C says. I know you can. But I also know the cost of it. I’ve changed numerous times like a chameleon.
So now, here’s my life:
I wake up sometime between 3:30- 4 AM to pray and write. I am in bed by 8 PM every night. I eat two meals a day, my last meal is no later than 3 PM. I walk or run in the afternoon instead of morning so that I can prevent myself from crashing into dark moods. Nature walk is always the best cure. I do drink wine or beer once in a while, but I have to monitor my alcohol intake. No drinking for three consecutive days is my rule. At moderation, some alcohol intake has its benefit on me. When I feel like I am crashing, I have some options to choose from. Lifting weights, brief power walk, run or biking, watching a movie, nap, writing emails, yoga, music, the list goes on and on. And, oh, I go out with my sister and her three children to eat ice cream cones at Chick-fil-A, too.
It’s really not all that complicated. I have fundamentals. Praying. Going to morning mass as well as Sunday Mass, of course. Reading bible often throughout the day. As long as I come back each day to these anchors and stay in the grace of God, I am saved. I am safe and sound. I am happy. I am a happy writer. And as long as I keep my writing-self happy, nothing else matters.
Making a living out of writing may be a struggle, but writing itself is never a struggle for me. It is a hard work, and I have to be very shameless and thick skinned. I struggle through many barriers, fears and challenges. I have to cross over many desires and temptations, and kill my urges and kill my egos like a merciless murderer. But once I reach my victory, there’s so much sweetness waiting for me.
“Do you want to watch a movie tonight?”
My sister asks me as we park the car outside the house. I look at the clock. It’s almost 7 already.
“No– I have to get up early. I am going to bed soon.”
“Why? You’re off tomorrow.” Oh my dear forgetful sister.
“Yea, but you know I get up at 4. I want to write.”
So again, I murdered the little sister who would love to watch a movie with her oldest sister. But no worries. She will soon resurrect. And I will be fighting this sweet battle of being a good sister and a good writer, and I make sure I enjoy every inch of the tension this battle gives.
“The struggle with writing is never.”
I would put that post-it note over my computer, but I have a mac book that I carry around the house and I face no wall.