I’m not yet done with Pepys; his diary gives us physicality, action, not dreams, explanations, or fears. He tells us his wife has gone to visit her family, but not if he misses her. We see that he eats dinner and has drinks with friends. He gives us action and trusts that we will conjure his emotions or not. He leaves it to the reader to imagine his inner life. Often, though, writers don’t trust a reader to pick out motive and life’s inner workings. We are served up detailed backstage motives, and the message sags in the middle.

My life would be dull without writing, but mostly I prefer a physicality in which words nestle—taking the new puppy to obedience school, buying bananas and coffee, managing health issues. There’s a screen between words on the page and the reality of my life, of hearing that a dear friend has died, that my adult children are busy and well. The writing nestles in all that may never make it to the page.

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