I posted a status update on Facebook yesterday noting I was at The Yardhouse Restaurant, and that “at least they have good beer.” Someone responded asking me if I like to drink (yes, I like certain alcoholic beverages), and I found myself defending the stereotype of the drinking, binging, self-destructive writer. I’ve certainly had my scenes of inebriation, but I am simply lucky not to carry the addiction gene. Beyond that I have an inherent impulse toward beauty—meaning I cannot stand the way I look and feel after any sort of binge. Chocolate, tequila, smoke or deep-fried hush puppies, I don't feel good when I look bad. And I’m OCD about hygiene, so I can’t embody the unwashed, sloppy over-doer (nor can I be an effective hippie, but that’s another blog post).
In one of those universal existential confluences, moments after I posted my “I’m not a tortured, sloshy-drunk, self-mutilating writer” response, I received a friend request from a wonderful writer, Jacqueline Doyle, who has a story in the latest issue of the Santa Fe Literary Review, and read my piece, Demonios Y Canciones Mi Padre (live link to follow) there. In perusing her wall I found this wonderful essay she published in The Writing Disorder that interrogates the notion that writers generally create best when toasted. I found this excerpt apt: “But since I've gotten sober, I've noticed a few things. Not all writers are drunks. My own productivity has increased tremendously. Before I often wrote in an alcoholic euphoria after a night out of drinking, or induced a kind of euphoria sipping wine by my computer, and it sometimes produced results, but there wasn't much follow-through.”
Talent--it's breathes all around us. People can be so extraordinary. Watching the latest episode of SYTYCD last night I was yet again gobsmacked by art—the gifts of our bodies and brains. Not just dance, either, but in as many media as one can imagine. Each day I read the stories written by people I know, or from people I don’t know and must “judge,” and marvel at the creative impulse, the genius that must be ubiquitous—so much abounds. Feeling uninspired? Drab? Walk Off the Earth’s clever little cover song, performed with such acumen and wit, surely makes you feel a smidge better about the human stain? We are sublime.
Still, we focus and aggrandize production and consumption in our lives; our admiration doled out most often to those that accumulate money and power and things of “status” that ultimately mean nothing. We call him "Mr. Trump," for nothing more than his self-proclaimed status.The venture to become top dog is privileged, protected and exalted, and our singular impulse to art is diminished, mocked, and too often wholly unsupported.
Hello again from the world’s worst blogger.
I’ve had a festering writer’s block this year, only finishing up two fiction pieces I started at the end of last year and pulling out an old memoir piece called Jagged Little Summer, which was one of the final works I completed in college. As all old work does, I had a palpable physical reaction upon revisiting it that was akin to a fight-or-flight adrenalin dump—intense aversion. I hated it and knew it was all wrong. This piece is a memoir, and there were places I didn’t want to go with it, things I resisted reveal.
So first I rehashed it vigorously. I worked it and reworked it for at least the past six weeks. I kept revisiting it and tweaking a word here, a phrase there. It slowly got leaner, then longer, then better, but still it needed some stitching up, it needed a little more flight. Finally, frustrated, I made myself leave it for a while. If I stared at it for more than about 15 minutes, I closed the document and did something else.
In the past decade I have written memoirs for a nun, tutored children from Somalia, edited a college literary magazine, interned at Literary Arts in Portland, published a few stories, graduated from University with highest honors, given a speech to a packed house at the Schnitz, remodeled a fixer-upper, written grants for programs that helped, extended my emotional /intellectual horizons, made an intra-state move, started a business, regained my groove, placed my finger back on the pulse, joined Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn, bought a smartphone, traveled, raised puppies, and most importantly--honed my writing skills. I bare myself here on The Paper Garden and hope some moments will resonate with you.