Traveling Dilettante by Kim Schultz
I just got back from Colorado. It was not the Best Trip Ever: something gastrointestinally disastrous for all involved, followed by bronchitis—let me just say you know you have great friends when you call and say, “Hi, I need the key to your place early since I’m going to be sick,” and they meet you pronto with a key, still smiling as you drive away.
I had visions of writing while overlooking the Rockies, of scribbling longhand in beautiful notebooks with glances up at snow-covered Long’s Peak for reflection, but that did not happen. Both Baby 1.0 and Baby 2.0 got sick in a house where other small children were often present. (Some people assume that because I have kids, I like all kids. This is akin to assuming because you like sex with your partner, you like sex with anyone.) Between my own incapacitation and the children’s, it was a struggle to carry on a coherent conversation. Writing was out of the question.
What did happen: reading, lots and lots of reading. I read Tina Fey’s Bossypants on the plane, but we also managed a trip to the Tattered Cover, Denver’s most marvelous bookstore, where I found all sorts of writers I know on shelves (“Hey, Judy’s book! Hey, Drusilla’s book, outfacing!”) and found some new ones (Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife, Dolen Perkins-Valdez’s Wench). The clerk said she was almost embarrassed to recommend Keith Richard’s Life, but she did, and I’m glad. There’s a stack of books on my Kindle that I re-read as treacly comfort: the Mortal Instrument series by Cassandra Clare, the Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins.
Now that I’m medicated and home, the most amazing thing about the entire experience is the telepathy of writing. I was in a haze of sickness. I had conversations with friends and family I don’t remember, but I remember clearly Tina Fey’s appreciation for Will Ferrell, the strange interplay between slaveowners, their wives, and their slave mistresses at a resort in post-Dred Scott Ohio, and the difference that Keith Richards and Paul McCartney identified between the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.
This is the real magic in writing, the way the written word bypasses the indignities of being sick to go straight to my brain. If any of those authors had sat beside me and told me their stories, I would have completely forgotten them. But something about the process of reading made those stories stick, even when nothing else did. This is why—now that I’m medicated on my way back to healthy—I write.
Kim Schultz used to write about cell phone test equipment, particle counters, and nuclear waste disposal facilities for money, but now writes aridly acidic prose for her own amusement when her children are asleep. She’s the secretary and volunteer coordinator for SDWI and is working on her novel, really.