Friday, September 7, 2007

supermarket

This is going to be a post about me. And writing. "But Niobe," I hear you say in a pleasant yet puzzled voice, "that would be different from all your other posts exactly how?" And you would be right. This blog is about me. And writing. And me writing about me. And me writing about writing. But mostly me writing about me. Interspersed with some links and pictures.

So now that I've simultaneously introduced the post and subtly lowered your expectations, here's what I'm really trying to say. Many bloggers who I very much like and admire have said, with a certain amount of fervor, that they love to write. That they need to write. That if they were stranded on a desert island, while waiting to be rescued, they would spend their time scratching sonnets in the sand with a stick.

But I'm not a writer. I have a real job, which on most days I perform with a reasonable amount of competence and on other days, like, for example, yesterday, I, well, don't. And as for the way I feel about writing, let me tell you a story about grocery shopping.

It's always difficult for me to set aside the time to shop for groceries. I make all sorts of excuses to delay the trip. Cereal, I tell myself, is a perfectly acceptable dinner. The expiration date on the milk is really more of a suggestion than a hard and fast rule. But when I finally arrive at the grocery store, I feel only happy anticipation. The aisles are well-lit and beautifully clean. There's music playing in the background. Laid out before me, in neatly arranged rows, are interesting things in pretty packages and all I have to do is pick the ones I want.

As I make my way through the store, I consider each item carefully before adding it to my cart. I roll the apples over, checking for soft spots. I compare prices of laundry detergents. I visualize the pasta, colored black with squid ink, as a background for tomato sauce. Sometimes I pick something up then put it down again, usually and with a twinge of guilt, on the wrong shelf. I work my way through the store, up one aisle and down the next, proceeding methodically from the dairy section all the way to frozen foods, watching the pile in my cart get higher and higher.

At the cashier, as the groceries slide down the conveyor belt, I feel an inordinate sense of accomplishment. Once I get home, exhibiting compulsive tendencies that would be a surprise to anyone who's seen my closet, I line everything up in the refrigerator, evenly spaced, separated by size and food group, labels facing outward. And then, all too soon, it's time to do the whole thing over again.

And that's exactly how I feel about writing.

25 comments:

DD said...

Funny. That's how I feel about IF cycling, cleaning, and my job, but never about writing (blogging).

I kept a diary when I was just a teenager and then never wrote again until I started blogging and there are days I can't wait to get done with cleaning or working so I can write.

Lori said...

This is so funny, because I have been mulling over in my mind a post in which I share my thoughts on my own writing. Great minds...(or, in my case, mediocre minds)... think alike.

I consider myself a writer in the sense that I communicate best through the written word. I am far more articulate in writing, than I am in speech. But, I could never be a writer by profession. Much too lazy. Too content with "good enough." And I hate re-writes! That's why I like blogging. I can just spew it out, however I want, and nobody grades me or sends it back as "unacceptable!"

LAS said...

Sometimes I think I love writing, sometimes I hate it. I think I'm terrible at it, and I wish I was better at it. Sometimes I think I have a lot to say, and I can't figure out how to say it. I can't find the words - it never comes out sounding how it feels. I personally think you are a great writer, and I frequently eat cereal for dinner. Also - in the fridge, there is a designated cheese drawer. It is only for cheese and related items that I deem appropriate for the cheese drawer. It's a good thing I live alone. I relate to the feeling you are describing - I feel this alot lately, all over my life.

niobe said...

Las: I think I love you. I too have a specially designated cheese drawer. And you are so wrong about your own writing. After reading one of your posts, I often suddenly see something in an entirely new way.

Amelie said...

Interesting. I delay writing much more than grocery shopping, and I don't see myself as a writer. But I also have a cheese drawer. Writing sometimes helps me to get a clearer view of how I actually feel about something -- well, and if it doesn't work, then it's just another halfway finished or not even started post.

Christine said...

me too! me too! me too!

1) i love grocery shopping and am pretty much in heaven when i am there (yes my life is boring)

2) when i write i feel the same exact way. when i am done with a piece i am thrilled and sort of pleased but it isn't something i considered fun. i enjoy this community here, and i love sharing things with you guys, but i am not a writer. and that is ok.

thirtysomething said...

This is great! I love your creativity. I mean, you explained writing in such a way that is fun and also we all get your point!
I like the new looks on your blog, by the way.

slouching mom said...

I absolutely understand how you feel about writing, because your analogy was that perfect.

However, I'd have to come up with a different sort of analogy to describe the way I feel about writing.

niobe said...

Amelie: I love you (and anyone else with a drawer devoted exclusively to cheese) too.

painted maypole said...

HA HA HA that's a funny analogy. I HATE going to the grocery store.

Adrienne said...

I have a cheese drawer, too. I wonder what that says about us, hmm? Any amateur Freudians out there?

As for writing, I love to write and I hate to write. And I would rather read on the desert island than write.

Lori said...

Niobe- I not only have a cheese drawer, but I actually have labels on the shelves of my fridge! It drives me crazy when my husband puts something on the "leftovers" shelf when it clearly belongs on the "condiments" shelf! I blame it on my Montessori upbringing.

stat763 said...

I thought everyone had a cheese drawer. Where else would one put the cheese? I too love to grocery shop. It is such a great escape and the decisions are so inconsequential.

I love your writing Niobe. Me, I'm not a writer by any means but it does help to get these thoughts out of my head.

Ruby said...

Doesn't everyone have a cheese drawer?

I love your writing! Not only intelligent but a sense of humor too.

Eva said...

I don't really like to write, particularly if it's for school, but I do like the outcome at the end. I have to make myself do it sometimes, but it always seems easier in the doing than in the planning.

We grocery shop several times a week using a list. We love it, too. Guilt-free spending: you have to eat, after all!

Monica said...

Well done post. I hate writing. I'm an oral person (see, even that came out awkward). I can charm the pants off of people in person. In wrting.. um, not so much. I hate grocery shopping because I always spend too much money buying things I never cook. I wish I could be one of those disciplined persons who meal plans for the entire week and then shops for all the groceries. I also wish I were blond and big-chested. We eat a lot of cereal too.

bubandpie said...

It's not writing you enjoy - it's having written.

I'm the same way when it comes to academic writing, but not blogging: that's pure fun (most of the time).

Furrow said...

How odd. I too have a cheese drawer, and I don't usually do those compartmentalized compulsive things that others do. (I'm too haphazard).

But I think you've hit on the perfect analogy for me, too. My writing is also like my grocery shopping style. I go into it with high hopes and big ideas, and as I go down the aisles my ambitions grow, but along the way I get hung up on the high prices (in writing, that's time and mental energy) and end up going home with it only half done. I'm frequently disappointed when I realize all of the essentials that I've left out and all of the frivolous things I've thrown in that would never end up on a reasonable menu. They sit and spoil in the fridge.

My writing is often full of metaphors and analogies without sufficient context. Quite like the spices and sauces I often bring home without a base to put them on.

(My husband now does the grocery shopping, by the way.)

Good one, Niobe! Damn good post.

My Reality said...

You may not think of yourself as a writer, but you sure do have a wonderful way with words.

Bon said...

you played this metaphor out so vividly that i began to realize that not only is writing for me exactly like you describe grocery shopping, but the pleasure i derive from knowing that it is exactly like this is a lot of what compels me to write. it's always hell to start, or just empty and vague with cereal looking great for dinner...but i know, absolutely, that i need that feeling of lining up stuff on my fridge shelf. or in my cheese drawer (mine's more a compartment on the door).

the things we must do are not always unabated pleasures...i don't think?

ms. G said...

Dang, Niobe, you are a good writer! What an awesome analogy!

Katie W said...

I don't have a cheese drawer, but i do feel how you feel about shopping. I love the 24hr supermarkets we now have as it means I can pick my shopping time for the greatest amount of isolation, and fewest amount of small children (no offense to anyone with small kids, but you hate shopping with them, I don't have to, so I avoid it!)
As for my organisation in the kitchen, I blame the lack of it on 2mX3m kitchen, and stupid tiny UK fridges and freezers. After shopping I'm just grateful to have fitted it all in the cupboards!

LeRoy Dissing said...

Anyone with a cheese drawer has a lot more sense then folks in Wisconsin. We wear it on our heads, especially on Sundays. How weird is that?

Sarah said...

you're a fantastic writer. and i'm going to try to use this line as my matra at the store next time, because i have an absolutely miserable time grocery shopping:

"Laid out before me, in neatly arranged rows, are interesting things in pretty packages and all I have to do is pick the ones I want."

if only i can make myself see it that way...

Elizabeth said...

Reading each comment is like looking through a small window into someone's life - you seem to have a knack for getting people to disclose the most randomly interesting minutia about their lives...

And yes, I have a cheese drawer. Because the drawer was there and I wasn't sure what else to put in it, and blocks of cheese just fit so nicely.