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Talia zigzags between academic writing (a book based on her research* was published by HaKibbutz HaMeuchad publishing house) and prose (a collection of four novellas she wrote* was published in 2010 by Yediot Books). She’s currently working on a collection of short stories, and makes her living by lecturing and giving workshops on the relationship between the individual and society. She got her PhD from the Hebrew University – Department of Sociology and Anthropology. Talia lives in Beit Zait with her husband and their three children.
I remember how silly, yet determined, I felt going from one furniture store to another and sitting cross-legged next to each and every living room table presented in the showrooms, in search of The One. -The one table I will be able to write on. Recently I discovered that serious workrooms (with a chair, a table, books and office equipment) make me feel stressed and I rarely write in them. This was quite a disturbing discovery, seeing as when it dawned on me we had just moved to an apartment with a small room that was meant to be mine, for writing; furthermore, back then I bought myself a gift to celebrate the publication of my first book – a huge and very expensive office chair.
But the truth is: I prefer sitting cross-legged on the carpet (or a pillow), and writing at the living room table. The table of course has to be high enough for my legs to comfortably fit under it, but not too high, so that my hands and elbows are also comfortable.
When I enter other people’s houses (or even hotel rooms) I always look around and wonder – would I be comfortable writing here? Where would I position myself? If it’s a great house with a good table, I take the trouble to inquire when the owners plan to travel. I like writing away from home: in libraries, cafés and even other people’s homes – when the legal tenants are kind enough to go abroad and leave their intimate space to me.
2. Work Hours
Sadly, I don’t have fixed work hours or days. Once in a while a ‘good day’ comes along, a day in which I can hear a click between every two sentences, in which my finger is light on the delete button and clearly recognizes the superfluous, the rest of my fingers fill in the gaps and my head understands where the text is going. On days like these I’ll even print out a draft to read at night in bed. On a day like this – I can’t explain where it comes from or how to stimulate its return, but when it does appear – I try to write as much as possible, from morning till night. But these days are rare. On most days I’m happy if I manage to sit down for 2-3 hours and write, or mostly edit existing materials.
In addition I make sure to artificially create good days: 3-4 times a year I go to an old and cheap (but clean) hotel by the sea (I won’t disclose the name of the hotel). I put the mattress on the floor, drag the old coffee table to the side of the bed and write almost without any breaks. Then and there I am at my best.
3. Domestic Landscape
What you can’t see in the photo is that if you sit down to write on the carpet (as I am doing right now) and raise your eyes from the screen, you will see the kitchen. The light coming in from the window floods the sink, the stove, the transistor and the sheepish broom. All these hints of everyday routine actions remind me that I am not obligated to write. If it doesn’t work out, I can always turn the radio on and cook something or sweep a little. On the other hand, the choice between writing and housework is easy, isn’t it? Although cleaning, as opposed to writing, is so measurable, worthy, gladdening and the achievements are so visible. After all, every writing creature sometimes wonders if maybe it would be better to put the pen down, because there are enough books in the world (and articles, and internet publications) – and to add another one, hmmm…. is it really essential to anyone? Quite a bit of hubris is required in order to assume that all the world needs right now is a few more pages written by me.
4. Curtain, Pictures, Mortar and Pestle
These are items that I inherited from my grandmothers. The painting grandmother gave me, her dancing sunflowers and a painting of two gloomy friends; my father’s mother crushed nuts and almonds in this mortar for the pastries she made; and on my right is the curtain my great-grandmother embroidered – every time I look at it I think how boring the craft of embroidery is to me and then return to my writing.
These items are nostalgia – multi-generation feminine nostalgia. And it betters me and my writing in a romantic and slightly sticky way – these women, who created me – this is what they did with their time. And now they are no longer here. Thus the words of Walt Whitman touch me through the legacy they left me –
“That you are here – that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.”
I live, I write, the doubts evaporate. When all of this hits me in the right spot, I run to my computer, shaking off all forms of self-criticism. I must write.