The Writing Life: My Writing Life by mensah demary

coffee lit cigarette and book on dark background to signify early morning

I ... grab my phone (which is my alarm clock, too) and prepare some coffee. While it brews, I enter the second bedroom--our office--well, my office--to smoke a cigarette.

I reject the phrase, “the writing life.” I am also a hypocrite because, on occasion, I use the phrase “the writing life” as a catch-all to describe my life as a writer. It’s a poor excuse for a catch-all, the phrase. It attempts to lump all writers into a monolithic construct–a box, I mean–as though all writers write the same words, or write with the same style, or perceive the world through the same eyes. “The writing life” has a philosophical, if not religious, ring to it. Books are written and shipped with jacket-copy promises of showing a newborn writer “the writing life.” In other words, the phrase engenders the fallacy that the act of writing, and living life as a writer, is achieved by a series of steps or tenets, codes which, of course, differ from writer to writer.

* * *

I wake up at 5:30 AM. Well, I get out of bed at 5:30. Sometimes, I’m already awake…maybe it’s 4:45 or 5 AM. Sometimes, I drift back to sleep but otherwise, I’m up. Not thinking about much of anything. Trying not to think, as if thinking will wake up Athena. I don’t want to wake her. I want her to sleep, but I also want to be by myself and at this time of morning, I get my wish. It’s probably the only time I’m by myself–truly.

I get up and head to the bathroom. I’m sleepy. I don’t want to turn on the light but I must. Every morning, I think to myself, “The light will help boost my serotonin” though, some mornings, I don’t want a boost. I like to be down, sometimes.

I wash up and get partially dressed. I’m wearing a tee shirt and jeans and shoes–my favorite jeans are Levi’s; my favorite shoes are dark brown Clark Wallabees that appear old and broken in, but they feel so good–and I pick a sweater or button-down to wear, but I don’t put it on yet. I throw it over my shoulder, grab my phone (which is my alarm clock, too) and prepare some coffee. While it brews, I enter the second bedroom–our office–well, my office–to smoke a cigarette.

This is my favorite part of the day. Without fail. I’m in the dark and the city streets are empty. The trains haven’t yet started to run. The sun isn’t up. I’m standing in front of 14′ high windows, cold air blowing in, and I’m blowing out cigarette smoke. Very slowly. It’s probably the only time I savor a cigarette. And I think about writing, but I don’t feel like it this morning.

I think about Athena and how she seems un–

But I stop thinking about this. I turn to Specter. What needs to be done? Who am I publishing next? Am I behind on submissions? How are the bloggers doing? Is it time to start a micropress? Do people like Specter?

And by the time the coffeemaker beeps, indicating my coffee is ready, I put out my cigarette and stare out the window. It’s almost 6 AM now, but my eyes feel heavy already. I’m tired. I have a 40 minute drive to work, but I want to call in sick. I won’t. If I stay home, I’ll just putter around our big, empty apartment. It’s not literally empty but, where it counts, the emptiness is real.

I pour my coffee into a mug and walk into the office, sit at my 27″ iMac (that I’m still paying for) and turn on the computer. I sip my coffee.

And, beside the keyboard is a beige pill. Sertraline, the generic version of Zoloft. 100 mg/day. A pill a day makes the depression go away–I guess. I’m always somber when I take the pill. But I feel better because of the pill. If I stop taking it, what will happen? Will I be medicated the rest of my life? I’m saddened by these thoughts, but–I sip my coffee and pop the pill and sip again. The monitor is on now. I begin.

Thomas DeMarymensah demary, whose prose has appeared or is forthcoming in various publications, is co-founder & editor-in-chief of Specter Literary Magazine. A regular contributor for PANK Magazine’s blog, Art Faccia, and Peripheral Surveys, mensah currently writes in Camden, New Jersey with his wife & writing partner, Athena. For more information, visit or on Twitter @mensahdemary.

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