how’s the writing going?

The Sarahs (what Sarah Jones and I have come to be called at work. Saves time.) were walking to a meeting today, along with a favorite professor-slash-colleague, when he asked me, “how’s the writing going?” (Meaning, the non-work kind.)

I was tripping over my “well…that’s a good question…” deflectory response when Jones reminded me that I did in fact (almost) win a contest last week. “Well yes I DID!” Check it: Microstyle Writing Contest.

(You guys! That’s MY name on that list!)

The contest called for a memorable quip, involving wordplay, in 20 words or less.
A la Dorothy Parker: You can lead a horticulture, but you can’t make her think.
Or Groucho Marx: If I said you had a beautiful body, would you hold it against me? 

I wrote this little pithy number on Twitter a few months ago, and I tweaked it for the contest in September. Check it:

If there’s a special circle of hell for procrastinators, I think I’ll get to it eventually…

(Ironically, I entered the contest on time. Cosmic bonus points for that.)

I got the form email last Thursday letting me know my one-liner was one of the best! I freely admit it felt good to have external validation from someone besides my parents, friends, coworkers or local comedy fans (people who are supposed to find me clever and charming…). Now, thanks to this little contest, I know that there are complete strangers out there who find me clever and charming, too.

Turns out that’s HUGE for the ol’ writerly self-esteem.

"a major award!" --dad from A Christmas Story

So today I came home to find a nondescript package in my mailbox from W.W. Norton & Company, New York. My runner-up prize is a copy of Microstyle: The Art of Writing Little by Christopher Johnson. This NYT article from July tells you more about the book and author. Kind of cool. This guy, published and reviewed in the New York Times, read my little line, and said, “weeeeeell…it’s not the best, but it’s not the worst. In fact, it’s one of the five best. Let’s send her a book!” And so they did. And so I have it.

Thanks to the contest, I have this book + hope. Hope that next time somebody asks me “how’s the writing going?” I might have a better answer. I’ve been revisiting past journals for inspiration lately, and inspire they do.

I was wrestling with this writing question in November 2008. (So backstory, fall 2008. Work is up in the air, boys are…as always, a mystery. I’m feeling lonely in general and find comfort in listening to podcasts while doing dishes. {yup.} I’d just listened to a This American Life episode about music, featuring David Sedaris, Sarah Vowell and Anne Lamott. Some of my absolute favorite writers. Okay you’re caught up.) Here’s my reaction:

…The day I’m having a big, ugly existential crisis, a little reminder that writing is what I love, and maybe I can do it, and there are people out there to inspire me who are funny and smart and have a following and make a life, somehow, out of doing what I love. And it can be about your crazy family, or deep-rooted nerdiness, or duct-taped faith, and still be beautiful and witty and relatable and true.

So, three years later, do I start to take my own advice? That’s a good question.

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2 thoughts on “how’s the writing going?

  1. Write Sarah write….you can do it with gusto. You are a writer and have been for quite awhile. Write what you know best. Right this wrong and put those words to paper, please.

  2. Congrats! That is quite exciting.
    I have a tiny accomplishment of my own to share! I have now read through THREE YEARS of your blog, starting with October 2008, and now I am up to date. Keep writing, and I’ll do my part and keep reading.

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