Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The party has to be at the keyboard.

This is what happy Petya looks like.
When I was in 3rd grade, my elementary school teacher, Comrade Kamenova, would give us little composition assignments and encourage us to read our stories to our classmates. I remember writing a piece about my Dad surprising me with a bicycle, me rushing forward in excitement and falling flat on my face before ever making it on the bike. The surprise bicycle was a true story but I lied about falling, I have always been willing to exaggerate a little bit for a good story. Also, apparently, I came out of the womb loving physical comedy. But, most importantly, it was since that very same day-- the day of writing the bicycle story-- that I have thought of myself as a writer. I remember giggling while writing, the butterflies in my stomach while reading the story out loud. I remember flinching a little bit while reading an awkward sentence that I had to rephrase on the go. I also remember feeling absolutely VICTORIOUS as my classmates erupted in laughter at the end of the story. I don't think I've felt this proud of myself ever since.

As I look at many of the things that I've done professionally and reflect on the fact that none of them have really given me a huge sense of accomplishment, I've recently started to realize that it's that 3rd grade feeling-- of total competence and creativity-- that I've been after and have not been able to reproduce. It is because of that 3rd grade feeling that I've enjoyed working on my various blog projects over the years. It was never quite the same but it came close.

A few months ago, I was telling Kyle about Lyudmila Zhivkova-- the daughter of Bulgaria's Communist Party Secretary for many year-- and how incredible her short life had been. She used to wear a turquoise ring and the thing about turquoise is that it changes color on contact with poison. At the very young age of 39, Lyudmila was found dead in her bath tub and one of her friends reported that her turquoise ring had turned from blue to white; a sign that she had been poisoned. I really wish someone would write a novel based on all this, I told Kyle. Her life is just so phantasmagorical and well documented but so under-analyzed. At which Kyle, being the kind of husband that he is, suggested that if I feel that there should be a book about this woman, I may just as well be the one to write it.

So I started working on this project that I call My Writing Project and I try to be as casual about it as I can because I don't want to be stressed out about it at all. I am writing about this woman that I find fascinating and her world that creeps me out but draws me in as well. I close my eyes and see dinner party scenes and then I try to get them down on paper, no fancy nothing... just recording what people are wearing and the music that's playing and where specifically the band have arranged themselves at the Varna Casino.

I have written the tiniest bit of it but I worked up the courage to share what I had with a couple of friends and that, kids, has been the best thing ever. Because even though I feel like a total amateur and not nearly as victorious as I did in 3rd grade writing class, I feel a similar kind of urgency to be doing this and something that I can only describe as joy after I've been at it for a while. My friend Rob, who reads my stuff, keeps quoting Barry Hannah... "the party has to be at the keyboard"... and I know that's just so right. Who cares if it gets published and chances are it never will, but for now, this is where things are happening for me. For the first time in a long time I feel that I am doing something that I've always been meaning to do.  

11 comments:

  1. That's SO AWESOME!

    I absolutely LOVE your writing and have been, for a while now, hoping that there will be a book out with your name on it! Also, yay for the age of self-publishing. Not that I don't see a bestseller in your future, but - just sayin'.

    The last sentence of this post is so powerful - I wonder when will I finally be able to say it about myself and why does it take so much guts to start doing what you really want to do and what, deep down, you know you should be doing ...

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    1. that's really it... isn't it? figuring out what you really want is the hardest of all. i have struggled with this a lot in the last few years but as soon as i figured it out, i realized i'd known all along. i was afraid to admit it because i was afraid i wasn't any good at it. the thing that changed it for me was the realization that it didn't matter whether i'm any good at this... i just have to do it. it feels like a physical need, i don't have the option of not doing it. that realization has also taken a lot of pressure of me as well... my job feels less stressful, because it now feels like this great thing that i do to make money and pay my bills. it's not my calling. my calling is to read and write and i don't need a salary to do that.

      thank you for always being so supportive!

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  2. Petya, this is so great on so many levels! I can't wait to read it, so go on and party hard at that keyboard. I know it's going to be awesome!!! No pressure :)

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    1. thanks, ro! i am really enjoying the process!

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  3. I agree--that is awesome! Go Petya! I would totally buy your book--it sounds fascinating.

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    1. thank you, jean! who knows if it'd ever be a book... but right now, i'm trying to just stay excited about it and actually write it. who knows how long that would take.

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  4. When I stayed in Oxford years ago, at my friend's house, who was an academic, I remember him and his wife telling me about Lyudmila Zhivkova and how much she had been loved and had impressed everyone during her time at Oxford University. Sounds like a great topic, would love to read it, too! Good luck, rock on! :)

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    1. Yes! She really took great advantage of her time in England (while her husband partied the days away). I also read that when she traveled for work, which she did a lot, she'd spend all her spare time in bookshops. (Which, I think, is different from her public image as a glamour girl).

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  5. You write, i will read! I honestly do not know what to think about this woman, i read so many controversial things. Pls write!

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    1. I am hypeaware of the fact that she was not an angel, I really do not want to glamorize her in any way. But, just like you say, there are so many controversial/contradictory things about... which only makes her more interesting to me.

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  6. That's amazing! I guess I'll try to get the book once you publish it :) Now take your time writing it! I hope you'll get that feeling again.
    I had no idea who that woman was, but you have me intrigued and I'm sure your style will fit her story.

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