Annie Dillard wrote, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
On the first of each month, Catching Days hosts a guest writer in the series, “How We Spend Our Days.”
Today, please welcome writer
Last fall, miserable in the aftermath of too much red wine, I walked from my home to the river with an author friend. The sun was soft, but still warmed us, like a now off oven slowly losing heat. I told my friend I felt uncertain about my life. Like I’m ready for what’s next, only I don’t know what’s next. Like I’ve arrived at the airport with my luggage and my travel snacks ready to go but there’s no plane awaiting me at the gate.
Yes, she told me. This is what it feels like right before your first book. The holding pattern. Don’t make any major decisions, there’s nothing to be done but be in this feeling, she advised. I looked out at the murky Ohio River and thought about spending nearly an entire year waiting to depart for my next destination.
So, now just weeks before my debut is set to hit the shelves, I am not surprised that my obsession for word games has returned. First thing in the morning, even before the sun has risen, I’m scrolling straight past the news of the day down to the NYT Games section. I’m up to five games every morning. Connections (Still in beta). Wordle (I skip sharing my score on Twitter). Letter Boxed (I used to ignore this game, too complicated, but I’ve finally got it figured out). Squaredle (Not NYT, not aesthetic, but my fave). And last, Spelling Bee.
I do the games in the order of time they typically take to complete. Usually, I’m at it for an hour, maybe a little bit more, before I spell out the last word and achieve Genius level on the NYT Spelling Bee.
Five games every morning is… excessive. I admit. But this is a thing I can do, this is an outcome I can—if not control, at least—understand. There are clearly outlined rules and a definite end of play. I feel smart. I feel like I’ve figured it all out. Unlike a writer’s life. That is a life as murky as the Ohio, current ever changing. The games are a distraction from the feeling of the uncertain.
I’m the editor of Black Joy for Reckon. So, I begin my day by responding to a few emails to setup interviews for an upcoming newsletter and confirm a date and time for a potential collaboration with the director of the Black Barbie documentary, which I was fortunate enough to catch a screening of here in Louisville, Kentucky.
I’m also working on a quiz about The Wiz—the iconic Black musical begins touring again later this month! So I spent some time this morning researching the movie. But where my mind really is is the podcast interview I have with Nikesha of Black & Published later in the morning to discuss my memoir. She emailed last week to let me know she finished my book in four days and was real eager to chat about it.
While I wait for my second in a series of HPV vaccines (Did you know they updated the vaccine to cover more strains? And anyone of any gender 45 years old or younger is eligible to receive it. Consider this your PSA), I listen to Hannah Pittard’s memoir, We Are Too Many, about her husband having an affair with her best friend and the demise of both of those important relationships.
When we talk about the writer’s life, we speak of it as if it’s some separate entity, as if my writing life and my life-life do not inform each other, do not lay tangled in bed together. But here, her life and her writer’s life literally overlap on the page, inseparable. Careening across the calendar toward my debut date, almost every day is a mix of some task I must do for the book that is coming and the tasks I must do to keep the rest of my life humming along.
I head home and more emails are waiting for me. We’re working on a big package for the 60th anniversary of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham and there are interviews to be done and we’re trying to figure out the logistics of having folks in the church during Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Jackson Brown’s speech.
At some point in the day, I managed to squeeze in two Instagram posts about my book. A friend I don’t see often, texts asking me to meet her for a drink after her Barre class. I challenge myself to write until it’s time to leave and somehow, I actually do…?! I generally need large swathes of time to get into writing anything, but I guess you can surprise yourself!
Before meeting my friend, I walk next door to give a very book-ish bookmark to my seven-year-old niece. When she was younger, we used to read her this book featuring Grover from Sesame Street called The Monster at the End of this Book. The bookmark is styled after the book with Grover exclaiming, “YOU TURNED THE PAGE!”
At the bar, I order a matcha sour mocktail and let my friend give me the update on what she’s been up to.
I’m in bed by nine p.m. I watch one last Marco Polo from a friend I shoot messages back and forth with all day, BS on my phone for a bit, and it’s lights out by ten p.m, on the early side for me.
Then again. And again. And again until pub day. I wonder, if on that morning, the haze of uncertainty will finally lift. If I will wake before the sun and begin my word games or if I will wake, look up, and see my flight has finally arrived.
NOT THOSE SAME 3 QUESTIONS…
1. What one word best describes your writing life?
2. Is there a book you read over and over again?
- Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston.
3. What is your strangest obsession or habit?
- I don’t split poles. It’s an old Southern superstition my granny instilled in me as a child. She said you shouldn’t let something come between you and those you care about. So, if you’re walking down a sidewalk and there’s a pole in the path, you and who you’re walking with should make sure to go around the same side of the pole.
By MINDA HONEY