My new book “Midlife Solo” is now available.

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still blissful

It was not a dream. There actually is a President Obama, and he is closing Guantanamo and doing other wonderful things. I am feeling almost religious about this; if I were a believer, I would thank someone, Someone, for sending this man to try to pull us out of the deepest, darkest hole. 

I know, we’re not out of it yet by a long shot. I know, people are bitching already from the right and from the left – Jon Stewart showed a clip of Fox News already screeching, chest-thumping and moaning, and said, “It’s the FIRST DAY, people!” And then Paul Krugman, Mr. Nobel Prize, wrote about being disappointed that the speech was not specific enough … 

I’m determined just to bask. A smart man is there, surrounded by smart people. Things will get better. 

In a New York Times op-ed piece, Dick Cavett wrote about being so moved by the Inauguration that he cried. A reader replied that what she found most meaningful was the obviously deep love “of the man for the woman, and the woman for the man.” It has been a long time, she said, since we’ve had that kind of profound bond in the White House, if ever. I agree. Even the fact that husband and wife are such a formidable team, with what looks like an ideal balance between them, is inspiring. 

Yet, in all this Obamamania, some work is being done. The Ryerson class is well underway, my home class started Thursday, and at U of T, Autobiography II starts next Monday. I’ve been going through the many books I have on writing and memoir, and from now on, I will regularly share excerpts from these books with you. For example, Francine Prose’s excellent Reading Like a Writer, a beautifully-written book about reading and writing, contains the following passage about how hard it is to write. I’ve heard all of the fears before, from students who fall silent, who vanish. Perhaps just knowing that most other writers (except for Wayson Choy) feel the same kind of insecurity and doubt will help.

When we think about how many terrifying things people are called on to do every day as they fight fires, defend their rights, perform brain surgery, give birth, drive on the freeway, and wash skyscraper windows, it seems frivolous, self-indulgent, and self-important to talk about writing as an act that requires courage. What could be safer than sitting at your desk, lightly tapping a few keys, pushing your chair back, and pausing to see what marvellous tidbit of art your brain has brought forth to amuse you?

And yet most people who have tried to write have experienced not only the need for bravery but a failure of nerve as the real or imagined consequences, faults and humiliations, exposures and inadequacies dance before their eyes and across the empty screen or page. The fear of writing badly, of revealing something you would rather keep hidden, of losing the good opinion of the world, of violating your own high standards, or of discovering something about yourself that you would just as soon not know – those are just a few of the phantoms scary enough to make the writer wonder if there might be a job available washing skyscraper windows.



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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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