Oh, This is Cool

We are in a classroom! When I found out, my very first reaction was to check and make sure I didn’t have any crumbs on my face. Because you can totally tell from my writing that I’m sitting around with crumbs on my face.

Well, I don’t know. Maybe you can. Maybe there’s a way I write when I have crumbs on my face and y’all have figured it out.

Anyway, visitors, here’s what I would say to you. At first, learning to write suuuucckkkksss. Sucks. Oh, god, it sucks so bad. But I’ve been learning to write for thirty years now and it’s eventually pretty awesome. It’s like learning to make a map. When you’re first learning to make maps, you’re like “Oh, ha ha! The person I drew the map for eventually got where I wanted her to go! Score one for me!” But later, when you’re learning to make maps, you’re like “I want to be sure the person I’m drawing this map for can find her way to some place to eat and that she recognizes this bend in the river where the ducks will come right up to the shore and show you their babies if you sit quietly long enough before she gets where I want her to go.” And when that works, it’s so awesome.

But there’s going to come a day when you’re learning to write when you write something and someone’s going to read it and she’s going to be like “Damn, I read what you wrote and I had to write something myself.” Or maybe she’ll have to paint a picture or sing a song or dance a dance your work made her think of.

And that feeling. Oh, god. Well, when it happens, then you’ll know why learning to write well is worth it. Like learning to make maps, in the end, isn’t about getting the person using the map to where you want her to go. It’s about giving her what she needs to go where she wants to.

“To allow everyone to write, to thrive, to live.”

Daniel José Older has a tremendous essay in Apex Magazine this month. It reminds me a lot of Carole Maso’s “Rupture, Verge, and Precipice / Precipice, Verge, and Hurt Not,” which you know is still an essay I return to when I want to remind myself of the kind of writing I want to do, how I want my readers to feel that I am astonished by those “sturdy, glittering charms” in my hand.

It might seem kind of depressing that Maso can write “The future will be gorgeous and reckless, and words, those luminous charms, will set us free again. If only for a moment.” in 1995 and Older can write “We dive in, thrive in the unexplored realms, and the world is asking us to create something new, a new aesthetic, a new community. A new language, brave and delicious, to greet the coming day.” in 2013 and it seems like they’re both pointing us to the same place, still the same distance away.

But I find it inspiring–that we can find people on the path we want to be on, who are gesturing us ahead, who are putting up the signposts we need to know we are headed in the right direction. Never fast enough, never without unfortunate detours, but still headed that way.