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  • Three Precarious, Uncertain Elements

    "Writing exists (for me) at the intersection of three precarious, uncertain elements: language, the world, the self. The first is never wholly mine; the second I can only ever know in a partial sense; the third is a malleable and improvised response to the previous two. If my writing is a psychodrama I don't think it is because I have, as the internet would have it, so many feels, but because the correct balance and weight to be given to each of these three elements is never self-evident to me. It's this self—whose boundaries are uncertain, whose language is never pure, whose world is in no way 'self-evident'—that I try to write from and to. My hope is for a reader, who, like the author, often wonders how free she really is, and who takes it for granted that reading involves all the same liberties and exigencies as writing."

    — Zadie Smith, "Foreword," Feel Free

  • to be sorted later » something funny started happening

    to be sorted later » something funny started happening

    "Brilliant Disguise" | art by Vin Zzep | via Society6

    I started drafting this post a month and a half ago. Seems like whatever it was I was sorting through at the time wasn't too inspiring! 

    That is both the truth and a lie. I've felt inspired; I've felt like sharing. Then I've talked myself out of it. 

    I've been here before. This is nothing new. But I'm back, ready to sort through some things with ... my computer screen! And hopefully, you, person reading this. Hello.

    So, to begin, and what brought me back here to this month-long abandoned "to be sorted later" post: My friend Jimmy recently shared this beautiful little comic with me. It's called "Doing This," and in it, the artist describes "being afraid of being bad at the things I loved," and it made me remember.

    I remembered the rush of creating, of compiling, of writing, of sharing — even if it is only silly, little, blog post. (Emphasis intended on all the places I naturally felt inclined to diminish what I enjoy.) 

    Maybe no one will read this. Maybe no one but me even knew I had started my "to be sorted later" posts. Maybe no one knew I had abandoned them for two months. But, as I was reminded:

    "What did it matter if I made something and no one cared?

    I cared."

    Thanks, Jimmy, for the reminder. And thanks to the artist, Sarah, for Doing This.

    *

    Let's just keep sorting through things that inspire us, shall we?

    For Literary Hub, Rebecca Solnit offers 10 tips on "How to Be a Writer" — of course, maybe you don't want to be a writer, but that's pretty clearly the game I've been playing at here, so here we are. I particularly like #8 on her list: Joy. 

    "Writing is facing your deepest fears and all your failures, including how hard it is to write a lot of the time and how much you loathe what you’ve just written and that you’re the person who just committed those flawed sentences (many a writer, and God, I know I’m one, has worried about dying before the really crappy version is revised so that posterity will never know how awful it was). When it totally sucks, pause, look out the window (there should always be a window) and say, I’m doing exactly what I want to be doing."

    Whether you're trying to be a writer or not, I am a firm believer that the suggestion to "pause, look out the window (there should always be a window)" is some of the soundest advice you'll hear today. 

    *

    Speaking of writers. Speaking of inspiration. Each year on September 11, I like to reflect by reading some of my man E.B. White's writings on New York, of which there are many. The most obvious, and one you should start with, is "Here is New York," but this year I found myself drawn to some of his other musings in Writings from The New Yorker 1927-1976. 

    You really must experience E.B. White's takes on New York in far more depth than what I'll leave here, but here it is anyway, from "New York," 6/11/55: 

    "The two moments when New York seems most desirable, when the splendor falls all round about and the city looks like a girl with leaves in her hair, are just as you are leaving and must say goodbye, and just as you return and can say hello." 

    I often feel that way about Chicago, though I can't say when I last saw a girl with leaves in her hair. Sounds like a vision, nonetheless. 

    *

    I also finally caught up on some reading this weekend. I finished Terry McMillan's new book, I Almost Forgot About You, and was reminded how satisfying a happy ending and a good love story can be. (I also started, and finished, the excellent and too-short novel, Another Brooklyn, by Jacqueline Woodson this weekend. Highly, highly recommend.)

    Apparently I'm being reminded of things a lot lately. I cried as I finished I Almost Forgot About You, partly because, as it turns out, I'm a huge fucking sap, and partly because I was thinking about my mother. She loved Terry McMillan's books and would have been surprised by the romance in this new one. It's so much more than the romance, though—it's about friendship and family and most of all, the relationship you have with yourself. 

    Early on in the book, as the protagonist Georgia reflects on her divorce, I couldn't stop myself from nodding along, and then pausing my reading to take a picture of the page to send to my friend Natalie. Here's an excerpt of what had me nodding:

    "I ran out of tears. And by the time I went back to work, I realized I wasn't angry. I was numb. I felt as if he had killed me and this is what it felt like to be dead. 

    But then as weeks and months passed, something funny started happening. I stopped missing him. I stopped mourning him. I stopped mourning the loss of him, and in fact he was the one who became dead to me. I was relieved to have our condo to myself. I started feeling like I was on vacation in my own home. I did whatever I wanted to do without needing to clear it with him. I learned how to stop editing my every move. I stopped apologizing for being myself. Because I liked who I was."

    *

    It feels good to be yourself and like who you are. Maybe it's not always easy, but it's worth it, baby. Don't apologize for being you. Don't apologize for wanting to create and share. I'm trying it, and it feels pretty great.

    Let's do this. 

    *

    Previously: "once seen, it cannot be unseen"