Can a person be a writer if she doesn’t write? If so, then that is definitely me. I come up with ideas and work on them in my head constantly, but I almost never sit down and actually do any writing. When I do, I inevitably get stuck, stop, and don’t return to it. Even letters to the local tree people. (I’ve been working on one for years about the insanely excessive tree trimming my city engages in. It makes me nuts.) Mostly, I don’t even start.
Tonight I started reading Mark Karr’s third memoir, Lit. She was my poetry professor in college, and I have always been proud of her success, as if it had anything to do with me. I remember getting an A on a paper about one of Sylvia Plath’s poems, but there were no comments on the paper. When I asked her for more feedback, she said, “What do you want me to say? It was an A paper.” I don’t know what I wanted–some inkling of what I did right so I could do it again, I guess. So I asked her to go to lunch with me one day to talk about ideas for my honors thesis project. She was generous and kind, but what I really wanted to ask was for her to be my mentor. She sensed that I wanted something, but I couldn’t articulate it. Since she did not suggest it herself, I let it go. At 19 or 20, I didn’t have the guts to say, “Show me the way.” I didn’t know where I wanted to go. Then, a few New York Times bestsellers later, the whole world was knocking at her door and I was just a student she didn’t remember anymore. I missed my chance.
Karr uses humor the way I wish I could–it’s smart and honest and not at all juvenile, which is how my own quips come across. Her sentences are so packed, you can’t read them quickly. She writes memoirs, however, which come from a place of honest self-examination. Fiction cannot quite follow the same rules. And my life is certainly not memoir-worthy. At least I don’t think so. So I think and imagine what I would write about if I were a writer. And then I go online and look up something completely inane and time-wasting until bed.