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Monday, July 20, 2009

Writing Down the Nerves

Sitting in a thirteen year old car with limited air conditioning, parked next to a chain link fence in an industrial center in Rhode Island an hour before a networking interview isn’t terrible as long as you find shade. An uncomfortable highway driver, I left early enough to ensure plenty of time for possible missteps during the 70 minute trip, bringing along a book to read if I did make it early.

My current educational literature is Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones which comes with short, compelling chapters. I hoped she’d calm my nerves while I waited to meet with the President of a not for profit mental health service provider who may have future project work for me. Thankfully, Natalie did relax me, although not as anticipated. Flipping though the pages, I wondered if I’d have enough focus to read, but it turns out it didn’t matter, because she directed me to sit there and write instead. I usually bring a steno pad with me wherever I go and I took it out after reading:

“Try writing under different circumstances and in different places. Try trains, buses, at kitchen tables, alone in the woods leaning against a tree, by a stream with your feet in the water, in the desert sitting on a rock, on the curb in front of your home, on a porch, a stoop, the back seat of a car, in the library, at the lunch counter, in an alley, at the unemployment office, at a bar in a wooden booth, at the airport, in Texas, Kansas, or Guatemala while drinking a Coke, smoking a cigarette, eating a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich.”

Natalie didn’t include: “Write to calm your nerves before an employment interview,” but she could have, and I did. At her suggestion, I pulled out my pen, and in my mindset, the limbs poking through the fence twisted their leaves like worried hands in the hot breeze. I wrote about the laughing squeals of the children climbing the jungle gym in the playground at the daycare center at the back of the office, and how the building was covered in orange bricks with two rectangular windows that peered like eyes etched with brown liner. I described the freshly painted spaces and the smell of hot tar on the recently sealed lot, and the sound of a bird with a call that has been familiar to me since childhood but whose name I’ve never known.

Then I got down to it and wrote how the buzz of the high tension wires crossing above the asphalt could have been emanating from me. Taking measured breaths I wrote a reminder to myself that I have plenty to offer--at which point my eyes drifted to the seat beside me and I began to detail my three-ring zippered leather case holding plastic sheathed samples of newsletters I wrote in my old job, advertisements I facilitated, and my most recently published pieces. That portfolio is new, I finally pulled it together last week; evidence of my past accomplishments and who I hope to become together in one professional binder, and while I documented those contents, the hour galloped past. At five minutes before eleven, I swapped flip-flops for shoes, pulled on my linen blazer, walked through the building entrance, and up two flights of steps.

Thanks to Natalie Goldberg, those high tension wires outside were the only things left vibrating as I adjusted my shirt and smoothed my blazer, grasped the door handle and announced myself to the receptionist.

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