MY WRITING LIFE IN MEXICO

Ojo del Lago
Chapala Jalisco Mexico
July 1998

How can I escape the clichés in writing about my new life in Mexico? All gringos who arrive here seem fated to dream of writing. For some, it’s precious memories of their colorful life before Mexico. Others begin immediately to chronicle the sights and sounds of the new life they discover here in a strange new world.

I brought my brand new Pentium loaded with programs to write and spell and scan and surf my way through recording the delights of simple village life in Ajijic. But what comes to mind and heart after the vivid colors of bougainvillea or the peaceful clip clop of horses’ hooves on century’s old cobblestones grow commonplace? Are the quaint customs of the natives really any more odd than those of their counterparts in downtown Philadelphia? Is life and love in the tropics really any more glamorous or seamy than the soap operas played out in Hollywood or Washington?

Here I am now, eight months into retirement with only a few hackneyed musings to my credit. Where is the novel the world is waiting to read? Where are the bright insightful commentaries on dropping out early to find a passionate new life south of the Tropic of Cancer? And what of restful days learning Spanish so that I can talk more comfortably with our architect, the local trades people, or Tampatico friends? Nothing! Nowhere! Nada! Ninguna!

“Discipline yourself, son! Take eight hours a day and simply write,” advised one local author who opted out of a high profile professional life to take on a new persona here. But with 200 or more others huddled at their keyboards in this sunny bright paradise, where do I begin? Do other writers find nuggets of glistening clean prose so easily between their keys while I strain to find the time, let alone the inspiration.

The excuses fall from my mouth like those heavy drops of rain we dream about during the dry season. “We need milk and bread from the tienda.” “It’s time to pick up today’s mail at the Post Office.” “Let me check my E-mail first.” “What time do you want to do lunch?” “The architect will be at the new house today and the carpenter and iron man need further instructions.” “Where is that guy who promised to repair the hot water heater?” “It’s time for Juana to dust my desk.” “Let me check that E-mail again.” “How many raffle tickets should we buy?” “Is it time to decide where we’re going for dinner tonight?” “Oh, I forgot to update dear Aunt Eleanor in Hamilton on our progress in lotus land.” “Let me help you with your lines for the next Little Theater production.” “You need me to volunteer to do what!?” “When do we have to leave for the next: (1) cocktail party (2) benefit (3) dinner party?” “And let me check that E-mail just one more time.”

And so the excuses grow. All to avoid the keyboard and the creative urges that somehow get drowned out in well-meaning activity on every perfect day after another perfect day in paradise. The sun shines, the breezes blow, the sights and sounds tempt me beyond my dreary desk. A place not so very different from that dreaded cubbyhole I just escaped at a large and impersonal university in Philadelphia.

But others nag and coax and shame me to set the creative juices free. To turn the joy of a new life into prose that can illuminate or at least amuse. Find the time. Find the muse. Find the Writer’s Group to share your pain and blocks. Find your freedom. And so on first and third Fridays every month I will struggle to perform for others and for my self.

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