Hello, my bloggy friends, let's begin with a little survey: Where do you stand on weirdness? Do you think it's best to ignore it and hope it goes away? Or do you feel as though blurting out how weird something is somehow takes the edge off the weirdness, at least a little bit?
It's always weird when I come back to the blog after being away for an extended period. My voice sounds kind of echoey and hollow here in this wide-open space and the only relief for it is to keep typing away until the space is a little less empty.
I've spent the vast majority of the day reading piece after piece of flash nonfiction in an online magazine called Brevity. I discovered Brevity in one of those moments of literary serendipity--this blurb in a magazine led to that book which had another blurb which led to a different online magazine which had a link to Brevity and I fell deeply in love. Today's back issue binge was courtesy in part of a new-to-me laptop, which makes spending the day reading a screen ever-so-much more (way too much more, I think) comfortable than sitting at my desk in my office.
The new-to-me-laptop is courtesy of a promotion at work and I have spent the day using it for personal things under the guise of acclimating myself to the new-to-me technology. (I've been strictly a desktop girl up to now--no tablets or e-readers or even a fancy phone to connect to the internet with.)
The constant reminder of my day job has been comforting since the pieces on Brevity are mostly so well written that they are both awe-inspiring and extremely humbling. Please understand, it's been a very long time since I've harbored the illusion of making a living as a writer--probably since fourth grade when Mrs. Wentz had us do a what-do-you-want-to-be-when-you-grow-up project. Mrs. Wentz was nothing if not thorough and as part of the project, we had to write down what we expected to get paid for our work. Planning to be a novelist, I calculated that I should earn one-third the cover price of every book sold. I figured one-third for me, one-third for the publisher and one-third for the owners of the stores who sold the book. For reasons I didn't understand at the time, Mrs. Wentz was amused and delighted by my formula and made sure to share her delight and amusement with my mother at the next parent-teacher conference.
Anyway, it's been a while since I've imagined quitting my day job and writing for a living as anything other than a far-fetched fantasy, which is good since the pieces on Brevity were, as I said, awe-inspiring and extremely humbling. The cumulative effect of that much good writing all in one sitting was to not only utterly destroy any microscopic lingering illusion of my making a living writing, but also to make me question the wisdom of continuing to write at all.
If I cannot write like this--lyrically with subtlety and grace--what then is the point of writing at all? I try to imagine the amount of writing practice that would turn my writing into that sort of writing--and the answer I smash headlong into each time is no amount of practice or time will turn my voice into voices like those.
This is not false modesty or a fishing expedition for reassuring comments. Instead, it is a clear-eyed evaluation of the skills I possess and the ones I don't. I realize, or I think I do, that my writing has certain strengths. It's just that those strengths are not subtlety or grace or...any of a million other intangible things that I have spent the day admiring in the work on Brevity.
I can't ever come to the page with the same life experience, the same worldview, the same talent as those other writers. What I can do is sharpen my prose, choose stronger verbs, tighten my sentence structure, dig deeper and dare more in hopes of coming ever closer to making the words on the page resemble the images in my head. And so, finally, again, I discover anew something I've known all along: the point of writing practice is not to learn to write like other people, but to learn to write more like myself.
The Traveling Salesman
15 hours ago