I knew it was crazy to write a novel. I had no real experience as a writer: I had never taken a class in writing fiction, never written a short story, never published a word. And everyone knew you couldn’t make a living from writing books.
Besides this, it didn’t make sense to leave New York. I had a good job at a prestigious law firm in midtown Manhattan. I lived in the trendiest neighborhood in the country and I was surrounded by great friends. I wanted to move to Berlin to write the book, but I didn’t know anyone there and I didn’t speak German.
I knew it was crazy to leave, but I did it anyway.
For years I had wanted nothing but to be a writer, though for years I had done very little writing. And I had long wanted to live in Berlin: it was the one city in Europe that still captured my imagination after living and traveling all over the continent. Berlin held a magnetic attraction for me even though I knew practically nothing about it. I had been to Berlin exactly once, and only for a few days. But I sensed somehow it would be a good place to write.
In the neighborhood of north Brooklyn where I lived, many people were talking about Berlin, though I didn’t know anyone who had actually moved there. In two years of working long hours I had saved enough money to last me for awhile, I hoped. I had heard Berlin was cheap.
In my last year in New York I hung a map of Berlin above my desk and a postcard of the Brandenburg Gate. On nights when I got off work at a reasonable hour I would sit at this desk and plot my novel carefully, drawling timelines in my notebook or making lists of research books. On the weekends I did the same thing in cafes.
One day I walked into my boss’s office and told him I was quitting. He swiveled his chair and looked at me. We were on the thirtieth floor and you could see midtown skyscrapers from his window, the Hudson river below. My boss grinned at me. “What’s better than this?”
“Nothing,” I said. But I left New York within the month.
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