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Airplanes, Instagram, and Digging Deep

Airplanes, Instagram, and Digging Deep

Yesterday I had the afternoon to myself. The idea was to grab a sandwich (Turkey 2, no onion) at Influx on Broadway and eat it at Golden Hill Park. Then I planned to write.

My writing coach, a brilliant woman named Lisa Cron (holy shit, she has changed my life), instructed me at our last session to “go deeper.” I am at this point in the creation of my current novel where I feel like I’m not doing my job as a writer if I’m not uncomfortable while I’m writing. I don’t know if endorphins are released while this kind of “dig deep” writing is happening, but the experience reminds me of when I used to run. Back then, it was like, “Fuck, this hurts. But I like it.” This is pretty much the exact same thing. At the same time, though, getting to the page knowing it’s going to hurt is sometimes a process. Which brings us back to yesterday afternoon.

After I finished my sandwich, I stood at the edge of a steeply declining hill that looked out over a golf course and simultaneously attempted to avoid the work of writing and force myself to do it. This is what it sounded like in my brain:

Maybe I should just go home and sleep.

Maybe I should take a walk.

Maybe I should stop being such a baby and start writing.

Actually, my car is a mess. I should clean it.

My closet at home is a mess, too. Maybe that’s why I can’t write. They say your mind reflects your environment.

Girl, if you let this entire day go by without writing, you’re not who I thought you were.

But maybe I need a break. Maybe the best thing for me right now is to go rent a bike at Mission Beach and just enjoy the day.

And on and on.

Eventually, I decided to walk. I hadn’t gone more than ten yards when I saw a mushroom growing up from the grass. If I weren’t so desperate for a distraction, I might not have gotten down on the ground to photograph it. But I was, and I did. One thing led to another, and the next thing I knew, I was lying on my back trying to catch Instagram-worthy images of the planes flying overhead and then rolling over to catch their shadows gliding over the golf course grass.

Although the photo session began as a distraction, it got me out of my head and into the world. While lying on the grass waiting for the next plane to fly overhead, I wasn’t thinking about writing or not writing. Instead, I was thinking about how loud the birds were, how warm the sun, and how curious the group of adults in fairy costumes who went traipsing through the park to who-knows-where.

For a little while, I allowed myself to just be. I engaged with the world around me and unclenched my fear muscles and gave myself over to this particular moment in my life. I took so many pictures that my phone battery died, at which point I got my notebook out of the car, sat down beneath a tree, and started to write. Within 5 minutes, I was crying and writing and digging deep and hating it and loving it at the same time.

Crazy person alert.

Years ago, my husband said to me, “Don’t waste your time trying not to be a basketcase. Just be the best basketcase you can be.”

So that’s what I’m doing. And I’m applying the same philosophy to my writing life as well. Sometimes it’s going to be messy and difficult, but it is what it is. This is the work of writing, at least from the perspective of this particular basketcase:

You be.

You dig deep.

You live.

You avoid.

You post your airplane pictures on Instagram.

You avoid some more.

You dig some more. Maybe you cry. Maybe you laugh.

You craft your words into a shape that makes sense to you.

You live some more.


And on and on.




  1. Alison DaRosa

    Pretty damn beautiful writing.

    • Elizabeth Salaam

      Dear Alison,
      Thank you! I appreciate your kind words so much.

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