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NO TIME TO BREATHE
As a Single Mom of three, struggling to survive in the South Central and Hollywood ghettos of the late 60s-early 80s, I was never able to find quality writing time. I found a manuscript’s worth at Djerassi in the Santa Cruz mountains circa 1990. Otherwise, virtually every minute of my day was spent “dealing with” some vexation such as inadequate transportation. Getting around is a major ordeal in a place like Southern California. It’s impossible to keep a schedule when having to spend 4-5 hours riding buses and hitchhiking. Maintaining an automobile is mandatory. In impoverished circumstances, simple things become major issues: buying food and clothing, taking the kids to the doctor, seeing a dentist once in a while. The logistics can become overwhelming, especially when one’s neighbors can only be trusted to rip one off, put sugar in one’s gas tank (shoulda bought a cap that locks!), or “messes around” with one’s mail or back door. Since leaving some of those hassles behind, I’ve encountered pre- and post-graduate students in similar environments with like problems: an ailing and demanding parent or sibling they must care for, a low-paying job that’s the mainstay of the family, and homeless students sleeping out of their cars and eating at fast-food joints—perhaps a laptop and a cell phone marginally keeping them from dying of embarrassment. NOISE is what it’s all about if rival hoodies all have boom boxes, or the machismos have a penchant for beating their women. Having a room of one’s own or a few weeks to loll around in Prague or Paris would be heaven for budding writers who live below the poverty line, don’t have trust funds or endowments, have yet to win huge literary awards, or aren’t rolling in corporate or institutional perks. Recently, I’ve advised students to not only get their doctorates by hook-or-crook, but to “take the money” when and if it’s offered. The notion of living for the love of one’s art—one’s beauty—is a romantic one, distinctly passé. Ask someone’s who’s been there and is stuck there.