“The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day when you are writing a novel you will never be stuck. That is the most valuable thing I can tell you so try to remember it.” ~ Ernest Hemingway
Although my father, the literary critic and novelist Julian Moynahan, had writing and reading space in a separate building in our back yard, nicknamed by my mother, “The Ivory Tower” my clearest memory is not one of a static writer sitting at a desk but more one about edges, the side of the dining room table, the kitchen counter, a chair in the living room. He had his solitary side but clearly he found inspiration when his time was short, compressed, dictated by dinner and putting out the garbage, the only domestic duty I recall him performing.
My obsession with edges began with traveling. I searched for Islands, coastlines and the end of the land in Maine, Ireland, England, Greece and Spain. Once I returned to graduate school to obtain an MFA at Brooklyn College I started to ride the subway to school, trading my bicycle and hiking boots for public transportation where I had exactly 54 minutes of writing time, longer if our train was stopped in a tunnel. I believe the urgency to reach a destination was captured in my narrative. There was built-in tension, compression and the weirdness of my fellow commuters. Eavesdropping, I overheard siblings discussing their parents, interrupting each other, their speech patterns almost identical, couples arguing in weary tones that signalled the dispute was ancient, mothers holding babies, staring out the window of the train into the darkness of the tunnels, whispering secrets into their tiny ears, all of life in 54 minutes. The subway offered a perfect laboratory for novel writing.
One day a man with a gun boarded our car and pointed said gun at a passenger, “Give me the ring.” He said.
“Fuck you,” she said, not even trying to take off the ring.
“Give him the ring,” I said inside my head.
And then the train stopped again and somehow the man with a gun was left on the platform, the diamond owner went back to her Walkman and the rest of us, seasoned New York commuters all, returned to our books, newspapers, and in my case, a scrawled piece of dialogue and a quick description of the main characters; lady with ring, man with gun. I highly recommend public transportation especially if you find yourself blocked: Greyhound bus, subway, long distance road trip, airport and walking. Your car is a void.