writing |verb| the activity or skill of marking coherent words on paper
Milan is melting like a giant popsicle. The big fluffy flakes made their first appearance Monday morning and by Tuesday night were already dripping away. It was short-lived, but for a few days this cavernous city was almost kind.
Snowstorms made fairly regular stops in Washington D.C. (where I grew up), so why the excitement? It’s cold, it’s wet, it makes doing virtually anything a Japanese obstacle course. And, importantly, it makes us wear really unattractive clothes – like a little nation of Michelin men. So what is it about a snow snooze that makes us feel like Christmas has landed on our doorstep out of hours?
We were up in Madonna di Campiglio last weekend for some skiing with a Dutch FIFA-friend. True to his origins, he was impossible to miss in his bright orange jacket. This proved to be a strategic advantage, given my (ahem) meditative skiing style. No matter how many adjectives I can come up with – and I’m a writer now, so I can come up with a lot – now matter how many photo uploads to Facebook, nothing comes close to capturing what it feels like to be up on that mountain. (And that’s not just because it was a sunny -10º C.) To pop off a ski lift and find myself on the edge of that immense space, is truly something. It’s not a conversation I care to rush. Out of the gently groaning expanse, something assures me that, although infinitely small in the universe, I am looked after to the most infinitesimal detail of my existence. Now I’m ready to swish my way down into the scenery. And by now, as you can imagine, the speed-demon Dutchman is long gone – so thank God for his bright orange jacket.
On our way back down to Milan, I found myself craving one of my childhood snowstorms – the ones that, in one fell swoop, erased any other plans you might have had and sentenced you to a day of building snowmen, drinking hot cocoa and having lots of buttery toast. I was soon to find out what a grown-up version of me would do in the same circumstances.
The lockdown from the snowstorm was more self-imposed than actually necessary. This was a watered down version of a storm at best, and yet nonetheless effective in throwing me into a creative maelstrom. When I caught sight of the first flakes on Monday morning, I thought this would be the perfect excuse to enter a writing competition that ended in 4 days. It was an ambitious project – I had 4 days to write, re-write and review an entirely new short story with a rather complicated plot line. This was going to take time, it was going to take dedication and it was going to take a tub-load of tea. (Depending on how things went, I might need some vodka as well.) Whenever I got into a tiff with my stubborn characters, I’d stretch my legs over by the window and watch the snow accumulate on the electric cables, on the cars below, on the towel plopped on the floor of the balcony across from mine ever since I moved in. (Incidentally, that’s the model’s apartment I’ve mentioned before – naughty, messy models!)
By the end of the day, I’d written my fingers to the stub and my head into an overheated fuzz fest. I desperately needed some airing, so I went with Luis to walk Botox in the park. From every corner, you could hear dogs howling with pleasure as snow swirled down thickly. Around a pop-up carousel, Botox frolicked in the snow banks like a bunny rabbit. He was enchanted by the refreshing lickability of this white substance from the heavens and was weirdly enthusiastic about peeing in the stuff. I kept trying to capture the Willy Wonka scene with my Blackberry until I realized that, again, nothing would come close to communicating how magical it all felt. So I stopped fidgeting with gadgets, and just felt thankful.
Some days have since passed and I’ve submitted my story to the competition. My writing books tell me that rejection is a fact of writing life. I figure, if that’s the case, than I better get cracking – better move along and get this first piece in so that the “yes” piece, can make it’s way up the line. The editor Ted Solotaroff wrote an easy fittingly entitled “Writing in the Cold” where he says “Rejection along with uncertainty are as much a part of the writer’s life as snow and cold are of an Eskimo’s: they are conditions one has to learn to live with, but also learn to make use of…” He calls on us to persist – because this is a truly daunting task. We are trying to encapsulate in words the impish, the impossible and the impactful elements that can make our existence magical.