Living Other Lives: The Adventure of Writing

As I wrote about when our theme was regrets, I have had more than my share of adventures in life. I’ve hitchhiked in Bulgaria, picked kiwis in Israel, and spent three months driving solo across the United States, and those are just the things I’m willing to admit to on a public website.

The Oxford CommaNow I’m a middle-aged mother of two. My big excitement is the Black Manhattan my husband makes for me as I stress about my daughter’s elementary school graduation next week. (Yes, I know. Elementary school graduation isn’t really a thing. But she’s my baby. And she’s finishing elementary school. Which means I’m finishing elementary school. And I’m not ready for what comes next. So it’s a big thing for me.) My adventures these days consist of removing ticks from my family (that’ll teach my husband to wear flip flops to my daughter’s soccer games), sneaking bourbon slush into the school picnic (for the adults only, thank you! I’m not that bad of a parent), trying to identify what, exactly, that smell is coming from my son’s room, and arguing the merits of the Oxford comma with anyone who even thinks about omitting it.

So that’s it? Get married and have kids and the adventures end? (And no, the joy and beauty of raising children is not an adventure; it’s the indentured servitude I signed on for when I said, “Don’t worry about the condom. It’s the wrong time of the month for me to get pregnant.” Twice.)

Well, yes. And no. Because that is the joy of being a writer. I get to have adventures every day of my life without ever leaving my sofa. As a writer, I can experience whatever adventure my mind can conjure. Wish you could live in the Roaring Twenties? Go back there! Want to have sex with a completely handsome but smarmy man in the wilds of the Hudson Highlands of New York? Why not? Every consider tossing the life you have to run a bar on the Lower East Side of New York? Sounds like a solid plan.

When you write, you can have a million adventures all before dinnertime. Between MODERN GIRLS and my current yet-to-be-named novel, I have slept around, drank the most exquisite drinks, been involved with politics, gangsters, and bourbon. (Notice the proper use of the serial comma there?)

That’s the thing about writing: You can lose yourself in anything or anywhere you can dream. I think that’s my favorite part about writing, when it’s flowing and I’m lost in a character and can experience anything I can think of with no repercussions in the real world.

When people are amazed that I’m a writer—and I get that a lot, “You wrote an entire novel? How could you do that?”—I have to look back at them in amazement. How can you not write? When you don’t write (or paint or make music or sculpt or whatever kind of art floats your boat), you only get to live the life you actually have. Between the time when my kids go to school and when they return home, I’ve traversed the world, romanced an army, and traveled in time.

Middle aged? Yes. Done with adventure? Not even close.

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Jennifer S. Brown is the author of MODERN GIRLS (NAL/Penguin). The novel, set in 1935 in the Lower East Side of New York, is about a Russian-born Jewish mother and her American-born unmarried daughter. Each discovers that she is expecting, although the pregnancies are unplanned and unwanted, in this story about women’s roles, standards, and choices, set against the backdrop of the impending war. Learn more at www.jennifersbrown.com.

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