On Originality and Procrastination and Fall Reading

As I write this, I am wandering around my tiny apartment in my nightgown, wrapped inside a huge grey shawl, bedraggled hair tumbling down my back like some fallen lady in a Victorian storybook. It has been a morning of trying unsuccessfully to write my personal statement for MFA applications. I am feeling small and panicked, like a trapped squirrel. It’s not that I can’t come up with the reasons why I write — it’s that I can’t come up with one that seems insightful enough, and more importantly, one that isn’t a cliche. Every thought I have about writing seems to be a tired rehashing of something I’ve heard or read and at this moment, my one big fear is that I don’t have a single original thought in my head. Frightening.

I’ve decided to address this blog to the void, in tribute to Meg Ryan’s character in You’ve Got Mail, which is the most perfect movie ever made. Really. I defy you, dear void, to watch it and then disagree with me.


It’s fall in Beijing and the temperature is rapidly dropping. In between the legendary smog of this northern city, particles of air are crystallizing, hardening with the breath of impending winter. Next month they will turn on the city’s central heating. I will hear runny, watery noises coming down the pipes that run through every room in my apartment and then some day, I’ll happen to be standing close to one of the pipes and realize with a vague sense of pleasure that there is warm heat emanating from it. Four years in this city and it never fails to amaze me.

It’s my favorite time of the year to read. All times are good times to read, but fall and winter are sacred to the book and the cup of tea and the cashmere wrap and snuggly pillows propping you up as you read in bed.

So here’s to procrastination. I’ll leave the work and worry for another day and dive back into Dodie Smith’s I Capture The Castle.

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