Welcome to the X-er Files!
After spending the past month writing morning pages every day about how difficult it is for me to write fiction, it occured to me, if it is that hard to for me to write fiction, perhaps it’s because I am not primarily a fiction writer. As I look at blog posts and Medium stories that have done the best, it’s always essays. So why fight it?
E.B. White writes:
The essayist is a self-liberated man, sustained by the childish belief that everything he thinks about, everything that happens to him, is of general interest. He is a fellow who thoroughly enjoys his work, just as people who take bird walks enjoy theirs(*). Each new excursion of the essayist, each new “attempt,” differs from the last and takes him into new country. This delights him. Only a person who is congenitally self-centered has the effrontery and the stamina to write essays.
Let’s see…childish belief that everything I think about is fascinating to others, check. Every new idea delights? Check. Congenitally self-centered. Yep. Stamina, well, hey I used to run marathons AND coach others to do the same. Effrontery seems to be my lack, and that I can certainly work on.
(*)Note, am I the only one who is thoroughly fascinated by the fact that there are people who take “bird walks” for a living? Where do I sign up for that? Not a huge birding fan, but it is outdoors and there appear to be no spreadsheets involved.
Even the things I read from my favorite writers, Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, Susan Sontag, Joan Didion, Elizabeth Gilbert, etc…tend to be essays. (and memoirs. But my life is too boring for memoir.) And I made A’s on every college essay I ever wrote. I should have taken the hint, right?
So, it’s September 1. I am starting this new academic year with a new blog, conveniently located at the same address. Random essays for the win. Although, I am currently fascinated by the connections between anxiety and curiosity, so expect essays and research about that as well.
More from Mr. White:
There are as many kinds of essays as there are human attitudes or poses, as many essay flavors as there are Howard Johnson ice creams. The essayist arises in the morning and, if he has work to do, selects his garb from an unusually extensive wardrobe: he can pull on any sort of shirt, be any sort of person, according to his mood or his subject matter — philosopher, scold, jester, raconteur, confidant, pundit, devil’s advocate, enthusiast. I like the essay, have always liked it, and even as a child was at work, attempting to inflict my young thoughts and experiences on others by putting them on paper.
I should mention, the minute I had this epiphany, I wrote 500 words about it. And it was fun. That tells me everything I need to know.
I am not fooled about the place of the essay in twentieth-century American letters — it stands a short distance down the line. The essayist, unlike the novelist, the poet, and the playwright, must be content in his self-imposed role of second-class citizen. A writer who has his sights trained on the Nobel Prize or other earthly triumphs had best write a novel, a poem, or a play, and leave the essayist to ramble about, content with living a free life and enjoying the satisfactions of a somewhat undisciplined existence.E.B. White
Thanks for reading this far.