Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Packing 101 For Writers: What Not to Bring.

I am packing for a trip, and since it's a car trip, I get to bring whatever I want. And so I begin a ritual that I think is unique to writers. Here's what I have put aside in preparation for packing:

•Three books -- two novels and a memoir. I'm going to a wedding, but since I don't know what mood I'll be in – euphoric, nostalgic, wistful, hopeful, sad -- I'll take them all.
•Four magazines. Two are good for my brain, one is good for my soul, one is good for nothing – and sometimes that's just what I need.
•Two literary journals. Usually, there will be a short story or a couple of essays just the perfect length for a late-night quick read, and perhaps the perfect match for my post-nuptials mood.
•Two newspapers. Yesterday's and today's New York Times (minus the sports section, which I am forsworn to leave home for the teenage son). I don't mind day old news and anyway I don't really read the Times for the news, but for the writing – the OpEds, special sections, etc. There will likely be a Boston Globe in my hotel lobby, and I'm sure I'll grab that too.
•Drafts of two essays, neither of which are behaving and both might benefit from a change of scene. This has actually happened in the past.
•Two notebooks. The one for writing down ideas, notes, scribbles, horribly rough first drafts, quotes I hear and like, snippets of conversation I (deliberately) overhear. The other, for poetry and unmailable letters (which often morph into very bad poems and even worse rough essay drafts).
•Six pens. If you write, think about writing, plan to write, or want to write, there's no explanation necessary.
•The outline for my next writing workshop class, badly in need of something to follow, "everyone introduces themselves and talks about their writing goals."
•One computer. The practical reason: At least one clients will be waiting for work while I am away.
And sadly, I can no more imagine leaving the computer behind as I can imagine NOT leaving notes behind for my husband and kids on the refrigerator, counter, breadbox and bathroom mirror.
•One camera. I have been thinking about photographing things I want to remember when I am writing about a particular moment. So I tell myself that is my writerly reason. But the truth is, people are depending on me to snap the betrothed. (I am very bad at this, and so will be handing the camera off to a willing bystander.)
•A legal pad, sticky notes, a pre-stamped envelope. Hey, you never know.
•Something, anything, to wear.

If any of this sounds familiar, then maybe this will too: Someone who knows you very well and is standing nearby, observing the scene, snickering, shaking head side to side, and asking, "Are you really bringing all that stuff for just two days?"

And you know what? He hasn't even seen the tote I already stashed in the car. The one with the two books on CD, extra notebook and pencils (pens quit in freezing cars), and the three articles ripped from the magazines I reluctantly tossed in the recycling today…..

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