15 January 2018:
You sit around tonight, reading Russel Rowland’s book, putting off trying to write. Putting off this feeling, this question: Are you the writer you thought you’d be?
Looking back, be honest. You didn’t see this coming. You didn’t see this sitting in Dr. Parrish’s class eight years ago, writing like a madman nonsense poems on campus about the simple things passing by. You never imagined ahead to this, living in Montana with only a handful of essays published in the past few years.
What were you aiming for? What did you think you were supposed to do?
The travel pieces have not been easy. The articles you’ve tried, they lean too much toward the poem. Still, you’ve managed a couple “lyric essays.” But that’s not what you saw coming either.
You imagined getting paid to hike Yosemite, camping in South Dakota for a week, driving to see your mom in Virginia. Then, from there, what? Overseas? England? Africa? Pull a trip off like Hunter and write from Puerto Rico?
What a life.
You can hardly imagine that now, without a single travel piece published anywhere, with about $50 made from writing.
You write out of Montana now.
That’s what you said in what you call the best essay you’ve put together yet. But what does that mean to you tonight?
It means you’ve come a long way, in time and place. Your writing-heart has become many-sided, unsure of what to write about, neglecting certain subjects, overwhelmed by others.
What rings the loudest? Oklahoma, Kansas, Virginia, South Dakota, Virginia? Or the space between all that? All that going?
You don’t want to write like Patrick Madden, and you don’t know if you could write like Joan Didion. So, instead, you sit around the apartment in silence, bothered by nothing in particular. Happenstance maybe. Life’s breezy way of passing by.
Has it been easy? Have you tried hard? Could you look your grandpa in the eye tonight and say, Yes, I am doing my best—?