Last week I fell into a pit of writerly confusion, due mostly to a few different things I have been reading.
I read a blog post from my friend Shanna Mahin here, where she raved about writer Cheryl Strayed and her The Sun essay "The Love Of My Life." Both Shanna and Cheryl Strayed are memoirists, and if you read the essay you'll get a taste of the powerful and complex emotions each of them are able to capture, along with the raw honesty of their lives. (See also Sam Dunn's book Failing Paris.)
I also recent read Julie Otsuka's PEN/Faulkner Award winning book The Buddha In The Attic, which is a beautifully written book, told in first person plural, that describes the Japanese immigrant experience in way that was far more educational to me than other accounts I've read in the past.
So, why the confusion?
I've admired everything I've been reading lately. Both Otsuka's book and Strayed's essay feel weighty to me, feel valuable. At the same time, neither of these works is something I would personally want to create. I end up questioning if my own work has this same vague sense of value, and right now, unfortunately, my answer is no. I want to be able to find this value while still exploring what I want to explore. And, really, I think what this means is that I should be moving slower, planning more, thinking more deeply. I think I need to explore more inwardly as I produce words on a page.
It doesn't help that so many voices are always promoting other writing. I mean, that's really cool, but hearing all of these compliments has temporarily blinded me. I spent the weekend trying to write an essay, and then I wondered if I should go back to my novel Rooster and explore the immigrant thing again. Dumbly, I assume that the value will appear if I just explore the right topics. Um, probably not.
None of this is to say that I'm depressed or even necessarily down. I think it has been helpful to show me where I am on my journey. I'm probably dumping all of the new stuff I've written lately so that I can explore something new with these things in mind. We'll see. I refuse to make any commitments or promises!
Also, I went to Bread Lounge this weekend, and it was wunderbar! Below is a reminds-me-of-my-friend's-ex-military-father-eating-bread-in-his-chair baguette and a ciabatta loaf. Not pictured are an almond pastry (that got partially eaten before it occurred to me to take a picture) and a croissant, all of it for ten bucks.
What's Peanut eating? Roast chicken or nothing at all.