Continuing our Writing week, here is a post from Jillian Medoff, author of the amazing I Couldn’t Love You More. You may recall that Jennifer Weiner referred me to Jillian and her book. Here is my review of I Couldn’t Love You More and Jillian’s Great Authors’ post.
I adore the last sentence of this post!
I’ve been writing fiction almost all my life. I studied creative writing at Barnard and in graduate school at NYU, taught fiction writing for a very brief period, and have spent the past twenty-odd years stealing time from my corporate job, my husband and kids, and my friends to work on my novels. I’ve published three books, and am currently working through my fourth. I like to think I’m an interesting writer; however, the truth is, I’m not a very interesting person.
It’s my sad secret: my life is painfully boring. Therefore, a behind-the-scenes look at my writing life would be a very tedious exercise. I get up, take my kids to school, go to my office, work on my book during lunch, come home, make dinner, watch crime shows, read, and then go to bed. Some nights I go out for dinner or drinks with friends, and I travel for work-work and book-work, but in general, my routine rarely wavers. I do think, though, that because my day-to-day life is so conventional, I’m able to tackle more risky material in my novels. For instance, my most recent novel, I Couldn’t Love You More is about a stepmother who is forced to decide which of her children she’ll save in a freak accident. Like the book’s narrator, Eliot Gordon, I am both a mother and a stepmother. I also have three kids and two sisters. But that’s where the similarities end. I mean, if I were out saving children in freak accidents all the time, I’d never have the energy to write books, so in my case, having a boring life is actually a blessing. Similarly, writing novels requires herculean amounts of discipline and commitment. I write at least 60 or 70 drafts of a book over a minimum of four years. I Couldn’t Love You More took six years to write, edit, revise and sell. Had I not been a boring, middle-aged mother/office worker, I never would’ve finished it.
I’m actually very, very busy. Every moment of every day of my life is accounted for with either work, family, books, or crime shows. I don’t multi-task because I always, always, always screw something up when my attention is divided. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve almost passed out from panic, knowing I just addressed an email to the wrong person. It’s very funny in a sitcom but very un-funny in real life. So I don’t multi-task (rather, I don’t admit to multi-tasking), but I do have a laser-like focus, and when I zero-in on something, I could blow up a building with my intensity. Like everything else, this has a downside. For instance, once I lock onto something, it’s very hard for me to let it go. When I’m working on a novel, it’s great but I can also obsess about a single conversation from 1992 that I can’t seem to let go of.
I was taught that an artist’s life is separate from her art, and that knowing too much about a writer can diminish the experience of reading her fiction. I don’t know if I believe this, especially since I love hearing about authors’ lives and their writing processes, particularly if they’ve had dysfunctional childhoods or twisted love affairs—the more dysfunctional and twisted, the better (I’m a sucker for any kind of soap opera, real or imagined). But I do get distracted knowing so much about someone with whom I’m not friendly; I also get very star struck around writers whose work I love. Ultimately, then, my life has been relatively normal. I did move a lot as a kid (17 times by the time I was 17), but other than that, I’m just an ordinary Joe. In fact, I take a weird sort of pride in my normalcy, my ordinariness. So here’s to all the average, ordinary women out there who are raising kids, going to work, making dinner, watching crime shows—and writing the occasional novel.
What are you reading and where are you going?