The Laundry Room


Initially this post was supposed to discuss what a slob I’ve become since I began writing. I planned on stressing how my story, told in River of January has consumed my days and has trumped any other daily concern–in particular bothering to cook meals or even getting dressed each morning. Then I happened to catch Tina Fey in an interview on Inside the Actors Studio. I like Tina Fey. She reveals her honest opinions with no airs or pretense, openly laughing at her own shortcomings. This particular episode was clearly a rerun, with James Lipton discussing and sharing a clip from her newest film “Admission,” released back in 2013.

This taped exchange between Lipton and Fey eventually transitioned from her many successes on the big and small screens to authoring her first book, Miss Bossy Pants. She confessed that the writing process was surprisingly more difficult and caused her more discomfort than any screen play. Fey shared that she found time to work on the book during breaks on 30 Rock, and in spare moments on various movie sets. While at home, her husband tended their children while she hid in her laundry room to continue her manuscript. And Fey further admitted that publishing Bossy Pants left her profoundly vulnerable and solitary. She said, and I quote, “You really put yourself out there.”

This accomplished, brilliant writer-comedian used her laundry room for writing, and felt vulnerable about her work! Now, I certainly don’t pretend that I anything near her immense talent, but I, too, wrote a lot of River of January in my laundry room! Tina Fey and I both wrote books in our laundry rooms! In my case I busted out my laptop on that cluttered floor because our washer’s timing mechanism was on the fritz. I had to keep a constant vigil so the machine would finish a full cycle. Easily I passed a good two to three hours a session, leaning against the litter box, as the churning rotation of the washer and dryer rendered that little space the best spot in the house to concentrate.

Writing a book is hard, and has frequently forced me to reassess my value as a person. I believed real writers, like Tina Fey, sat behind elegant desks; keyboards illuminated by brass halogen lamps, genteel mugs of hot tea within reach, assistants scurrying in and out of the room conveying edited sheets of type to publishers. That scenario bears no resemblance to this middle aged woman, clad in flannel shirts and sweat pants, continually switching off the pause button on a faulty washing machine.

The most reassuring part of that TV interview was how anxious Fey felt over her book’s public reception, saying something to the effect of how she girded herself for literary failure. Again, another bingo. I’d like to count my writing meltdowns, and vows to never write again, but I only have so many toes and fingers. Any remarks readers have written or spoken regarding my book, River, is indelibly carved into my psyche–forever.

So the truth remains that my writing is mine alone. The words generated, the story those words tell, are between me and my computer. Still, aside from that solitary angle, plus the risk and intimidation in publishing River, I somehow feel less alone. Oh, that washing machine is now working fine.

Gail Chumbley is the author of River of January, available on Kindle.



One comment on “The Laundry Room

  1. Reblogged this on Gail Chumbley and commented:

    Almost finished with book two, River of January, “The Figure Eight.”

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