The Getaway Car

From the bestselling author of Bel Canto and State of Wonder, a practical memoir about the agony, ecstasy, and occasional lunacy of the writing life.

  1. I WAS ALWAYS GOING TO BE A WRITER. I’ve known this for as long as I’ve known anything. It was an accepted fact in my family by the time I had entered the first grade, which makes no sense, as I was late to either read or write. In fact, I was a terrible student when I was young. I’ve always believed the reason I was passed from grade to grade was that I could put together some raw version of a story or poem, even if all of the words were misspelled and half of them were written backwards. Like a cave child scratching pictures on the wall of bison and fire and dancing, I showed an early knack for content. Only writing kept me from being swept into the dust heap of third grade, and for this reason I not only loved writing but felt a strong sense of loyalty to it. I may have been shaky about tying my shoes and telling time, but I was sure about my career, and I consider this certainty the greatest gift of my life. I can’t explain where the knowledge came from, only that I hung on to it and never let go.

    Knowing that I wanted to write made my existence feel purposeful and prioritized as I was growing up. Did I want to get a big job and make a lot of money? No, I wanted to be a writer, and writers were poor. Did I want to get married, have children, live in a nice house? No again; by the time I was in middle school I’d figured out that a low overhead and few dependents would increase my time to work. While I thought I might publish something someday, I was sure that very few peop...

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