For Writers

This is my 365th post.  If you’ll remember, a few years ago I made a pact to post on this blog every day for a year.  If I had kept that pact, I would have reached my 365th post long before now.  But I’m still here, and I’m proud as anything of that.  In honor of this special occasion, I thought I’d let someone else talk about writing and its strife.  Although I admit I haven’t experienced a number of the extremes he mentions, I’m glad to think that if I work harder–if I truly work to hone my craft–I can join the ranks of him, and of all the other talented names on my bookshelf.  If not their ranks, then hopefully I can at least share in some of their noble sufferings.

“Damn the Writers”

By Owen Egerton

Dear God,

Spare a blessing for the writers.

We have traded in the bars and bullfights for university jobs and Netflix. We sink into credit card debt awaiting publication, then find the advance won’t cover the monthly interest. Oh Lord, the books that took us years and blood have the shelf life of warm goat milk. In desperation, we write zombie erotica ebooks under false names, outselling our life’s work 10 to 1. Our friends and family flip through our drafts, shake their heads, and return to their game of Candy Crush Saga.

In the midst of all this, may we be writers.

May we grieve and sin and celebrate all in the same swallow.

May we seize morning light and squeeze it into ink and toner.

Grant us coffee and honesty and laptops that do not connect to the internet.

Teach us to be chefs, plucking herbs from sidewalk cracks and mushrooms from basement floors. And if we fail to provide nourishment for the hungry, may we at least offer the aroma of cooking.

We are starving, God. Every last one of us.

May we persevere remembering Emily Dickinson, John Kennedy Toole, and Henry David Thoreau. That said, God, we’d like the timing to be a little kinder in our case.

Deliver us, oh Lord, from the temptation to once again check our Amazon ranking or Google our own name.

May we write books worthy of being banned, outrageous enough to be burned.

May we offend.

May we be open to the wisdom of our colleagues and not a give a fuck if the workshop likes it.

May we visit the hearts of pedophiles and tour bus conductors and volunteers working suicide hotlines.

May we sneak into the funerals of strangers.

May we run mad so we may write for the mad. May we face brokenness so we can give voice to the broken.

A little happiness would be nice as well.

May we remember that how we live is essential to how we write. And refuse to live small.

Stoned or sober, may we piss in the pools of wealthy neighbors, eat in bars with health code violations, and steal bibles from homeless shelters.

May we make love loudly, even when alone.

May we embarrass, embarrass, embarrass ourselves.

May we be lost. May we pen maps so others might become lost as well.

May our greatest risk not be our words but our lives. And may our lives spill words like molten rock.

Damn the writers, God. Then bless us with the words to describe it.

If I sound ridiculous it is because I am ridiculous. This is my religion. This is my faith.

God, cast your gaze upon us. See us in the kitchens, closets, coffee houses. Sitting and scribbling, typing, staring off between words. We raise our souls like a sloshing glass of grain alcohol. We toast one another. We smash the glass and light a match.

Forgive our clichés. Heal our poor grammar. And thank you, dear God, for Spell Check.

Oh Lord, hear our prayer.

Amen.

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At the Common Cup

I feel like such a “blogger.”  I am sitting in an actual, non-chain coffee shop.  There are mismatched tables, there are vinyl-backed chairs, there are drawings from the local elementary school children on the walls, there are apartments upstairs.  I am drinking fair trade ginger peach green tea.  It’s snowing outside.

I am reading (though not this minute, naturally) Dan Wakefield’s New York in the Fifties.  I want to turn into Dan Wakefield when I graduate.  I want to take a train called the Spirit of St. Louis, or the Pacemaker from the Midwest to New York City.  I want to live in the Village and sup in mystical places called drugstores.  I want to run into Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac in someone’s smoky apartment.  Mostly, I want what those men seemed to have: an assurance, right out of college, that they were in the place they needed to be and doing the work they needed to do.  Oh, for that kind of certainty.

As it is, though, I’m sitting in a vinyl-backed chair in the Common Cup Coffeehouse in Morris, Minnesota.  It is snowing outside, and cold.  And for now, I think this is where I need to be.

“Hearing that plain Midwestern accent, as well as the plain thinking behind it, bolstered my confidence, proving that people from the hinterlands could make it in East Coast literary circles.  It gave me courage to speak to some of my new classmates, jostling down the steps of Hamilton Hall after a lecture.

‘Hey, Van Doren’s great, huh?’ I said.

One of them shrugged, and in a nasal New Yorkese said, ‘I dunno, he’s a little too midwestuhn.’

‘Yeah, that’s it!’ I blurted out.”

Give Me Another Year

 

A year and a half ago, I saw this movie:

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A year, 5 months, and 23 hours ago, I attained the following songs:

(for the record, I have very little insight into what these songs are actually saying, beyond “the world through rose-colored glasses.”)

A year and three months ago, I found myself here:

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And consequentially, here:

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And that sequence of events is as surreal to me now as it was to me then.  Me, tromping through Paris graveyards in search of Edith Piaf, who I had seen portrayed by Marion Cotillard months earlier.  Me, watching the Eiffel Tower light up from the damp grass of the green stretching in front of it.  And now me, sitting in a house in Morris, Minnesota, getting ready for dinner with friends that will likely not consist of baguettes and French onion soup, but pizza and burgers.  I wonder where I’ll be if you give me another year?

Christmas Eve

For almost as long as I’ve been blogging, I’ve written a Christmas Eve post every year.

2009

2010

2011

This Christmas Eve, I’m once again sitting on the couch gazing at the tree, feeling steeped in family and ham with cheesy potatoes.

We’ve had the traditional Christmas activities:

Cookie Baking

Extended Family Christmas Eve Party

Last Minute Shopping/Wrapping

Mexican Train

Christmas Jigsaw Puzzle (which Amy takes over.  I have not the patience for such things.)

Christmas Movies (The Santa Clause is my favorite)

Christmas Eve Mass (and the resulting pew dozing, which is simultaneously irreverent and inevitable)

It’s funny to be twenty-two, and to remember past Christmases when I could hardly sleep for excitement, and to look forward to future Christmases which may not be spent in Minnesota or with family.  It’s funny to feel that I just want to soak up more togetherness, and that I don’t really need a thing under the tree.  It’s funny to be mature and blase and (slightly) boring.  It’s funny to be too old to run around with the kids at Christmas parties, and to instead sit up straight with the adults (and be offered alcoholic drinks).

This is getting to be a nostalgic post, and while I do think that Christmas is the perfect time for nostalgia, and for rewatching those Christmas home videos in which you are quite blatantly opening your little sister’s presents “for her” and coveting them shamelessly, I also believe in merry Christmases and bright futures.  May you have both.

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What Went Down

I want to talk to you about Wednesday and Thursday, as I’ve been building up those two days since the dawn of time (or since last week, at least).

Wednesday was my senior seminar presentation.  Basically, having cut down my twelve page research paper about fortune’s role in Pandosto down to eight pages, I proceeded to read those eight pages to an audience of professors, classmates, friends, and (bless them) my parents.  It sounds boring, doesn’t it, to read an eight page literary analysis to a crowd of people (many of whom were not, nor had any desire to be, English majors)?  Well, it sort of was, but I tried to use everything that I learned in high school speech.  I stood up straight, I used my clearest, loudest voice, and I tried to put feeling into my words.  I care a great deal about my topic, and I viewed my presentation as a chance to make the audience care as well, at least a little bit.

My legs were shaking for the first few pages, but then I began to enjoy myself (as I always do), and when I would look up from the page, I would see my advisor listening carefully in the back, or my friend Ben grinning, or my Dad enduring nobly.  It felt a great deal like my birthday party in that I felt supported and celebrated and (I’ll admit only to you) a tad teary.  Then there was applause, and it was over.

A few days later, I got an email from my professor containing my presentation rubric: I got a 99%.  The 1% deduction, she explained, was because I had pronounced a word wrong.  I’m not overly upset about that one, however, as it was spelled strangely in the citation I read it from, and thus I didn’t recognize it to be the word it actually was, and thus pronounced it the way I saw it, and not the way I knew the word it actually was should be pronounced (whew).

Thursday was my Teach for America final interview.  I’m not going to go into detail about this one, as we’re under an oath of confidentiality, but I think I can tell you that I rocked it.  That sounds arrogant.  I know it does.  But honestly, there’s no other way to describe how well I feel I did.  Despite having gotten five hours of sleep both Tuesday night and Wednesday night, and despite having had to navigate to/through Minneapolis at the crack of dawn, I was at the absolute top of my game.  I was confident and energetic in every step of the interview, and am now even more convinced that Teach for America is what I want to be doing a year from now.  I won’t find out until early January if I got into the corps.  If I got in, further, the same email will also tell me which region I’ll be teaching in, and which grade/subject I’ll be teaching.

It’s a long wait, but I’m not anxious about the results.  I’ve done my best, and have sought to represent myself accurately and positively throughout the admissions process.  It’s nice to know that if I don’t make the cut, then there must be a qualification or trait that I don’t possess.  It won’t be because I didn’t perform as well as I could have.

Those were the “biggies,” if you will.  I still have one five-page and one ten-page paper to write, my senior seminar paper to turn in (after some fairly minor editing), and two final exams to take.

I also want to mention that I’ve noticed more and more people have been following my blog lately.  Thank you!  I get excited with every single new follow I see, and I encourage you to comment on a post if you have a question/opinion or want to say hi.

Reader

I studied on the fourth floor (the dreaded quiet floor) of the library this evening.  At the top of the stairs, before you turn right to enter the sacred chamber, there is a brick wall hung with floor-to-ceiling bulletin boards.  The boards are tacked with book covers.  You know: the ones librarians have to remove in order to fully plasticize and smudge-proof the humble cloth covers.  I stopped for a minute to stare at the covers longingly.

There was a book about American first ladies, one about pop art, one about traveling in Nepal.  And suddenly I longed for the day when I can leave schoolwork and assigned reading behind and be a reader again.  When I can go home at night, select a book from my shelf, and tuck in.  When I can research any topic on a whim, read trash, use a library card.  When I don’t have to take notes or analyze allegory unless I choose to.  When I know there will be no quiz the next morning.

It will be glorious.