at Fall for the Book, 2014
April 10, 1962|
New York City, United States
I live with my family on the top of a hill in the country, and during the days, my house is quiet, save for the occasional excitement of the FedEx truck heading up the driveway. I write.
When it comes to the personal essays I write, I just convince myself that no one will ever read them.
I used to act in television commercials when I was a kid and a young adult.
I knew I wanted to be a writer before I knew that being a writer was possible.
I am devoted to my husband and son. I am devoted to the practices and rituals that imbue our lives with a sense of meaning and purpose, that help me to live my days in the most emotionally and intellectually productive manner. I am devoted to the idea of devotion itself.
I do strongly identify with being Jewish. I was raised Orthodox and had a childhood complicated by the fact that my father was deeply religious and my mother was not.
How do we live the writer's life? There's only one simple answer: 'we write.'
The mind is a monkey, hopping around from thought to thought, image to image. Rarely do more than a few seconds go by in which the mind can remain single-pointed, empty.
I had never really felt settled in Brooklyn. I think it had to do with growing up in New Jersey and being someone who her whole life wanted to live in the city, and the city meant Manhattan.
Confidence is highly overrated when it comes to creating literature. A writer who is overly confident will not engage in the struggle to get it exactly right on the page – but rather, will assume that she's getting it right without the struggle.
Our pain hides beneath these fluttering, random thoughts that run through our heads in an endless loop. But there's so much freedom in getting to know what's under there, the bedrock.
Writers are outsiders. Even when we seem like insiders, we're outsiders. We have to be. Our noses pressed to the glass, we notice everything. We mull and interpret. We store away clues, details that may be useful to us later.
We secretly believe that if only we achieve some elusive goal – fitting into a pair of skinny jeans, or redoing our kitchen or getting that promotion – that it will make us happy. But the pain of our insecurity is hidden in all that racing around.
Strange – I'm not much of a film person. I love watching films, but they don't stay with me the way books do. Stranger still, because my husband is a screenwriter!
If you are a writer or any kind of artist, if you change something as fundamental as where you live – the way you live – then I think you change the very instrument that is trying to make the art.
I don't think it's possible to separate out the strands of a writer's history, circumstances, life events, and that writer's themes.
Novels are my favorite to write and read. I do like writing personal essays, too. I'm not really a short story writer, nor do I tend to gravitate to them as a reader.
I'm a full-time writer, which means I have the entire day to get my work done. But that can also be bad, because that means I have the entire day to get in my way.
I started realising that the themes running through all of my novels were really haunting and obsessing me about my own life.
With each book you write you have to learn how to write that book – so every time, you have to start all over again.
It's essential to have sacred time for writing. All successful authors have some daily commitment to keep on-track and moving forward.
When we reach reflexively for something to dull an ache inside of us, in that very moment of reaching, we are hiding from our pain. We're storing it away. Tamping it down.
Our minds have a tendency to wander. To duck and feint and keep us at a slight remove from the moment at hand.
Devotion, as it relates to the title of my memoir, means fidelity – as in fidelity to a person or a practice. I think it's certainly possible to feel devotion without having faith, at least in the religious sense of the word.
Sometimes, I'm driving along in my car, and a song from my high-school years comes on the radio: Springsteen's 'Thunder Road.' Just the opening few chords make me want to roll down the window and let the wind blow back my hair.
I was raised in an observant Jewish household, so for me, Hebrew prayers – the sounds, the sunlight streaming in from the stained-glass windows of a synagogue – bring my father back to me as surely as if he were sitting next to me, my head pressed against his shoulder.
I was raised in an orthodox Jewish home where it was expected that, as a woman, I'd marry an investment banker, raise kids in the suburbs and go to temple. I wasn't raised to set the world on fire.
If you write memoir, it can't be about blame or hurt; it has to be creative.
My dad died when I was 23. His death was sudden and shocking – the result of a car crash – and I never got to say goodbye.
My parents made the decision never to focus on my looks, and I had no sense of myself as beautiful.
Sometimes when I'm at my desk, I'll realize that I have contorted myself completely, and I haven't moved for hours, and that my legs have fallen asleep. I am elsewhere, not in my body, not in the room, not in my house.
My desk is covered with talismans: pieces of rose quartz, wishing stones from a favorite beach.
I love living in the country, so much so that I'm even surprised by it. I have met lots of interesting people – the community was really welcoming, and I now probably have a more interesting social life than I did in the city.
Success is so fleeting; even if you get a good book deal, or your book is a huge success, there's always the fear: 'What about the next one?'
When I sit down with my notebook, when I start scribbling words across the page, I find out what I'm feeling.
One of the stranger things about me is that I was raised as an Orthodox Jew. I went to a yeshiva until I was thirteen years old and spoke fluent Hebrew.
I do whatever is necessary in order to maintain the equanimity we all need to withstand the disappointment and rejection that are the lot of every writer, no matter where we are in our careers.
Music inspires me and puts me in the right mood, but to actually listen to it when I write – I find it gets in the way.
There's a danger in romanticizing what it means to be a writer. Because what it really means is hard, hard work. It means tearing your hair out. Feeling like your head is about to explode.