Sunday, March 6, 2011


I’ll confess. For the past three weeks, I have not been writing, revising, or querying. I have been spending my time in a much more productive way. With a manic surge of energy, I have spread hundreds of photos, and dozens of albums, the flotsam and jet-sam of our marriage, on the bedroom floor. The piles grow in front of me, Paris in one pile, grand children in another, my first attempt to organize twenty years of prolific if not artful scenes and faces. I tell myself that I’m doing this for our children. So that they won’t have to sort through this mess after we’re gone.

Except that I’m lying to myself. I huddle on the carpet at the end of my bed, Willie sleeping amongst the debris, because I don’t want to write. Now and maybe forever. After the albums and the photo boxes are lined up like totems on an high shelf in the hall closet, I turn to the next project.  My recipes, tossed for years into folders or scrunched in wads at the back of the cupboard, are calling to me. 

“Oh, god,” my husband murmurs as he makes his way to his side of the bed and pauses to pull fragment of scotch tape off the sole of his left foot. “Another disaster scene. What’s next?”

“My left-over glass, I think.” A box of large and tiny shards of Bullseye glass wait for me in the storage unit. It’s difficult to give up a hobby that has left me scarred but fulfilled. It is also hard to throw away glass that cost a small fortune just because I decided to become a writer. Now that I understand that my novels aren’t going to be discovered, won’t bring me fame and fortune, or even an agent’s request to read the whole manuscript, the glass beckons. At least I may get a wedding present for a nephew out of the effort. And I’ll have created something that someone will say is wonderful even if he doesn’t know what it is. “It’s a deviled egg dish,” I’ll whisper.  I begin to get inspired.

The recipes are now back in the cupboard, all in folders, Meat, Vegetables, Bread, etc., and I begin to clean up. The vacuum doesn’t fit under the bed and I lie flat on the floor and scootch until I can reach the papers hiding there. When I have them between my fingers and pull myself out, I see that I am holding four pictures of myself, pictures I set aside and forgot in my relief at finishing the photo project.

Me, forty some years ago, dark-haired, red lips grinning, holding a three-month old baby who stares, mouth open in surprise, at the camera. Me, twenty years later, grinning through a veil of sadness at the end of marriage, retreated to a beachhouse deck, Dino the Dog, my faithful companion, panting next to my knee. Me, my graying hair trimmed and stiffened as befits a professional photo session, grinning so broadly my gold tooth glitters because this picture will appear in an anthology along with story of mine. Me, only few years ago, sitting in a field of blue and orange wildflowers, grinning at how good life has become.

No, I guess I won’t stop writing. I’m just taking a break to acknowledge those four women who were me.  A pause to consider the story the next photo will tell.  

Jo Barney Writes


  1. At least you've written in your blog. I haven't for about three or four weeks. Put the pictures and glass aside and sit down with your novel. If after 10 minutes of writing you want to quit, go ahead. I'm betting you won't.

  2. I was so relieved at the end when you said you weren't going to quit writing! I loved your post--such visual descriptions of what we all end up doing--sifting through the fragments of our lives..I just posted on my blog if you are

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