That Moment When What You Had Hoped For Is Better Than What You Imagined

On Sunday I took the girls down to a writer friend’s house in Orange. It was way hell and gone, over near Riverside, and took over an hour to get to. Jules slept and V watched TV and I stared at the highway streaming ahead of me, and thought about my life.

It was nice to be with my friends, all of them writers. Samantha DunnJillian Lauren and Mark Sarvas. All of our kids are the same age and they ran around the yard with a pig and a horse and some dogs, while we drank wine and talked writing, and it was warm and sunny, and even though Jules knocked over a wine glass and Vera was afraid of all the animals, for just a little while I stopped thinking about all the things I have to think about these days.

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All my life I’ve wanted to be a writer. Seriously. Ever since I was like, 9 and really understood that to be an option. Like really understood it, not the way Vera thinks she understands it now. I was a voracious reader by then, devouring anything my bought for me, and then eventually even my Dad’s Dean Koontz books, just because I needed something more.

I was already writing by then too. Dumb stories about lizards, and a couple years later stories about girls who ran away with their dogs, thinly veiled autobiographies of a life desired. After that poems, for years poems. Long, sad, terrible poems about loneliness and heartbreak. Christina Haag once wrote that she thinks she was born nostalgic. I think the same of myself. It was almost like I was primed for tragedy; I was so ready to write about it.

I think I was fifteen when I knew that there was no turning back, that I was going to be a writer. I had to be. And so I just gave myself over to it then, really let myself believe and dream and desire that life. I read about other writers all the time, about their lives and deaths, and in general I read dozens of books, as many as I could. I was the girl who read every book on the suggested summer reading list, not just the required five.

Then when I was in my twenties and publishing a book seemed like something I might really pull off one day, I then let myself dream of afternoons just like Sunday. I dreamed of being friends with real writers, about getting together to drink wine and talk about our next books, bitching about the changing face of publishing, bemoaning our failures and laughing and toasting to our successes.

And you know what?

It was all that. And even better than I imagined.

It’s better because it’s real. And it’s better too, because we have little kids running around, and that was never part of what I pictured, but it’s so cool that they’re there. I think about when they’re grown up one day and how they’ll tell stories about the other writers’ kids they were friends with and how we all sat around drinking and telling stories while they were completely unaware of how cool it all was. I love that.

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But most of all, I just love the camaraderie, the shared sense of knowing this world, of being friends with people who grew up feeling the same way I did about books and words and life.

9 comments

9 Comments

  • Michelle
    Posted April 9, 2013 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    I’m envious of your writer-dream-come-true. But you’ve earned it – your book is so beautiful – and you deserve all of the happiness that goes with it.
    So funny that you mention that bit about being “born nostalgiac” bc when I read Christina’s book that completely rang true for me as well.
    This is one of those times I regret the career path I chose. I should’ve been braver.
    I suppose I still could be brave.
    Great post.

  • Michelle
    Posted April 9, 2013 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    Also, the book I wrote the summer after sixth grade was called “Summer Tragedy”. I was sure I would be an admired author by the time I started junior high.
    ;)

  • Posted April 9, 2013 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    I too have always wanted to be a writer, but I never had the confidence to believe that it was a viable option. Instead I went to law school, which for my family was a more realistic career choice. Suddenly a marriage and two kids later, I rediscovered my love for writing and have never felt better. It feels as if I found my voice. I am trying to write daily and chose to create my own blog (which sounds so cliche), but is therapeutic. Right now it is a hobby that has reignited a childhood dream, but at 33 years old, I am going to pursue this dream and maybe one day, I too will be a published author (though it still seems farfetched). Congrats on bravely following and achieving your dreams. Fellow writers, wine, kids, and farm animals, it sounds magical.

    http://denvermommy.wordpress.com

  • Posted April 9, 2013 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    Great post, Claire. Th writer dream is constantly evolving for me as I switch hats and try new things. From journalism to poetry to prose….I continue to experiment with my voice, trying to find the best way to tell the story inside me. I also think it’s important, especially for young people, to constantly read to learn to write. You were a writer long before your first book was published; remember that. It must just seem more real now.

  • Posted April 9, 2013 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    It truly makes the dream a reality when you realize that no only have you found your path, you’ve found your people! I feel so grateful to have a colleague, a witness and a friend in you.

  • Posted April 9, 2013 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    claire, i have been thinking about you and greg lately and realizing that i hope we can do dinner soon! your writers day sounds amazing, and i am sure that vera loved all the animals! writers are thinkers and feelers–we digest the world differently than others–not better, just differently. i think that we write because our minds can’t hold all that we think about. ha. maybe, maybe.

  • Posted April 10, 2013 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    Friend, I am smiling and nodding and so excited after we talked today. And I’m so grateful to have you part of my own little community. I had those same dreams. And I love what the above commenter said “you were a writer long before your first book was published.”

    xo livin’ the dream with you, baby.

  • Posted April 16, 2013 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

    I think writer friends are an amazing group of people. We come from all walks of life, different parts of the world, and with different paths that led us to where we now stand. The only thing we may have in common is the love of writing and that’s enough. There are times when think that the friends I’ve made in the writing community “get” me more than people I’ve known my whole life!

    I’m glad you feel connected and that your children see you so happy doing something that you love.

  • Posted June 6, 2013 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    Forgive me but I’ve just discovered your story via the announcement that your memoir is being adapted for the screen with Jennifer Lawrence. I’ve been reading your posts with a lump in my throat and I’ve put The Rule of Inheritance on my tbr pile as they say. Congratulations on healing and overcoming the past; and on being blessed with the ability as a gifted writer to share your story with those who need it most.
    I’ve been writing all my life as well and while these days I mostly just blog about movies based on books (like yours) I’ve come to realize it’s who I am and how I’m most comfortable expressing myself.
    Can’t wait to read AND see this;Jennifer Lawrence a proven talent and I imagine they’ll ‘age her down’ so she’ll play the younger you as well?

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