For months I’ve been struggling to get this book project off the ground. I’m very good at talking about it, but I haven’t been very good at getting it started. I’ve had ideas, I’ve had questions, I’ve had little glimmers of inspiration. But I had trouble just doing it. I wanted to be done with the thinking, and get started with the writing.
Problem was, I didn’t know what to write about. I knew I had something to say, but didn’t know what it was (a common writerly dilemma). Now, looking back over the last year or so, I realize that part of the problem was that a lot of my emotional/mental energy was going toward dealing with life, and a book is an organic thing. A book needs time and space to stretch out. It needs you to be open and willing to listen to what it needs to say.
In the last few weeks, right before I left for New York City, I finally tuned in. Not just put my ear out, but really tuned in, like when you adjust the knob on a car stereo and roll back and forth between two fine white lines to find the right spot, the song you’ve been waiting all day for and now it’s coming in nice and clear.
So I tuned in and I heard this: what if I write essays inspired by postcards? That’s what I’ve been itching to talk about. The postcards I have in my black box mean something, and maybe that’s the something I need to write down. I don’t know yet what my book will offer an oversaturated market of nonfiction/essay writing but I have to start somewhere.
I didn’t set out to collect postcards. It happened to me.
My first postcard is the one pictured above: a friend, cousin of another friend, sent this to me after a week-long sleepover when I was 15. After over 15 years, I still love the colors, the composition, the L that means “Liana.” But I didn’t think, “Hey, I’m gonna start collecting these!” I kept it because I’m sentimental and because I love anything that has to do with writing.
It wasn’t until I moved to Binghamton, NY for graduate school that I started collecting them. I walked once into a little gallery and art shop downtown, before I had a car, when the bus depot was on Water Street (I saw last month that it’s now on Chenango Street, closer to where I lived when I first moved there). I happened to see this little shop with its curiosities and its eclectic gifts…and its postcards. I went in and gravitated toward the postcards. For as long as I lived in Binghamton, I would walk into the gallery from time to time and buy a postcard or two.
Initially they were cheap art; after all, I was a graduate student, but it was my first time living in an apartment alone and I wanted to make it feel like home. I’d buy postcards with the intention of framing them. I still think of that sometimes when I buy postcards, but it’s gotten to the point where I have too many to frame. But I didn’t think much about what I would do with them beyond putting them on the wall. They were more of a weird little fact about me: “yeah, Liana has these postcards…no, she doesn’t get them in the mail, she just buys them…they’re kind of weird and funny.”
Years later, after I finished my dissertation and I had moved to Houston, I felt like I needed a writing project. I did not (and still don’t) feel like I could jump into revising the dissertation. A friend thought about the postcards adoring the walls of my Houston apartment and suggested that I write something about postcards.
It was an odd suggestion, so odd that it might work.
So when 2014 rolled around, I decided to establish a goal for myself: start my first book project, a book on postcards. This post just might be my first step.
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