It started with Dear Sugar. And then there was Wild. And then everything else I could find on the internet that she’d written: interviews, essays, facebook posts. Now, I’m slowly devouring Torch. But I always come back to Dear Sugar. I love “Tiny Beautiful Things” (and desperately want someone to buy the book of the same title for me for my birthday (hi mom!)) like I loved Letters to a Young Poet the first time I read it. These three paragraphs are kind of all the advice I’ll ever need:
Don’t lament so much about how your career is going to turn out. You don’t have a career. You have a life. Do the work. Keep the faith. Be true blue. You are a writer because you write. Keep writing and quit your bitching. Your book has a birthday. You don’t know what it is yet.
You cannot convince people to love you. This is an absolute rule. No one will ever give you love because you want him or her to give it. Real love moves freely in both directions. Don’t waste your time on anything else.
Most things will be okay eventually, but not everything will be. Sometimes you’ll put up a good fight and lose. Sometimes you’ll hold on really hard and realize there is no choice but to let go. Acceptance is a small, quiet room.
I’ve read this column maybe 1000 times. Every time that sentence: “Acceptance is a small, quite room” hits my like I’ve never read it before. How did one woman get to be so smart and so articulate?
But right now, it’s the “Write Like a Motherfucker” column that is haunting/taunting me. In it, Strayed talks about writing her first book (what she calls the second heart beating inside her) — and writing all the things that came before the first book. She says she wrote stories, assuming that they’d magically come together and create a novel. But they didn’t. She writes:
But I was wrong. The second heart inside me beat ever stronger, but nothing miraculously became a book. As my 30th birthday approached, I realized that if I truly wanted to write the story I had to tell, I would have to gather everything within me to make it happen. I would have to sit and think of only one thing longer and harder than I thought possible. I would have to suffer. By which I mean work.
I, too, thought my first book would happen by the time I was 30. And now that I’m almost 32, I’ve been quietly, secretly starting to feel like I’ll never have the first book. Which is entirely possible because it’s been at least a year (longer?) since I’ve submitted my book to a contest or a publisher. I couldn’t have told you a week or a month or certainly a year ago why I wasn’t sending my book out anymore. But today I can say it’s because it isn’t a book. I’ve been going around writing poems and thinking they’ll magically form a book. But they won’t. I have to actually write the book. It’s why my chapbook got published — I sat down and I worked really hard and I wrote 26 pages about a girl named Stella. I wrote those poems with a specific end product in mind, and it worked. I haven’t yet figured out what the full length book looks like, what story I have to tell. The poems I’ve written in the last five years are all over the goddamned place. They don’t work together. They’re sure as hell not a book.
So, I have to write a book. Not just a bunch of poems. And I guess this is how I’m going to do it:
We get the work done on the ground level. And the kindest thing I can do for you is to tell you to get your ass on the floor. I know it’s hard to write, darling. But it’s harder not to. The only way you’ll find out if you “have it in you” is to get to work and see if you do. The only way to override your “limitations, insecurities, jealousies, and ineptitude” is to produce.