Writing My Way to the West Coast

Moving three thousand miles is a life-altering experience, and I haven’t actually left home yet. I’m wary of all the lessons this move still has to teach me about who I am and the strength I never suspected I possessed.

What I am learning right now is that work is important to me because it’s a compass. When I don’t write, I don’t always know which way is forward.

It’s very easy to get lost in this move. There are loads of logistics—tension with our neighbors over the fact that their tool shed encroaches on our property line, which is an obstacle to passing the deed; an appraisal that may or may not put our home’s value as high as the new buyers offered on it in a heated market; an inspection on our new house that will almost certainly necessitate more negotiations with sellers who operate on existential time.

Then there are the emotional costs—leaving behind my parents, sister and brother-in-law, sister-in-law and her husband, three nephews, and fifteen-year-old friendships.

Some days I am overwhelmed by the ugly details and other days I am overwhelmed by the impending loss. The worst days are the ones where both details and loss are impossible to escape, and those are the days where writing saves me.

Writing does so many things for me, and more than ever in my current situation. It is an escape, a world to disappear into. The characters may have problems, even serious problems, but they are not my problems. And they are problems I can see solutions to, from my writerly position of power.

Writing is a respite from gritty reality, a temporal break from arguing, negotiating, signing contracts, scanning documents, researching obscure legal definitions, and making an endless series of decisions about things that don’t matter very much but cost thousands of dollars.

Writing is a sense of accomplishment and a sense of purpose. The move is such a deferred goal. Someday we will be there and we will be happy, but now we are just taking incremental steps toward it. No one step feels satisfying. But a thousand words? That’s satisfying.

Writing is something I can control. Something I can start. Something I can finish.

Right now I am craving short, concrete projects. I wrote a short story for the Mommy Porn anthology, and it was the perfect kind of work—constrained, specific, consuming. Start here, end here. This way forward. What does she need? She needs her husband to love her. And that? I can do.

I can’t make the neighbors move the tool shed. I can’t make the appraiser boost the value to reflect a hot market. I can’t make the inspector tell me everything’s OK. But my heroine’s husband is going to demonstrate his love against the far wall of that coat closet until absolutely everything is right in the world.