Today, Pondering Joan Didion

Mulling over a list of attitudes that can be considered “magical thinking.”

Remember the book that Joan Didion wrote, several years back, called The Year of Magical Thinking? Ying was reading it in the apartment in Tel Aviv when self visited her, just a few months before she succumbed, at 37, to leukemia. Ying told self it was a very good book.

Honestly, self does not know how Ying managed to read a book like that when she herself was struggling for her life. But that’s how Ying was. She was compassionate and loving, but also remarkably clear-eyed and unsentimental. She was brave. The last thing Ying told self, shortly before she left Tel Aviv was, “I don’t think I’m going to make it.”

Today, self flipped open one of her journals and the first thing her eyes landed on was this list:

EXAMPLES OF MAGICAL THINKING:

  • My “stuff” will save me.
  • My writing will save me.
  • Being good will save me.
  • My degrees will save me.
  • My 260-thread-count bed linens will save me.
  • Other people will save me.

Denial is the most dangerous form of coping mechanism.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

Letter to the Editor of POETS & WRITERS Magazine

The below was written to Poets & Writers in response to Michael Bourne’s article “Why We Write: Failure Is An Option” (September/October 2015). The letter appears in the November/December 2015 issue of P & W.

I so identified with his realization that he had viewed writing as an indulgence, as frivolity, when one could easily make a living with a less subjective vocation. Growing up in the Midwest, in a family of staunchly practical Germans and Scots, some of whom spent lifetimes working in jobs they disliked in order to support their families, I felt a pull to succeed in particular ways. It can be difficult to develop a conception of success that doesn’t involve a certain income, a certain type of house, and, since my family is from the Detroit area, a certain level of car ownership. I enjoy great support and encouragement from my family when it comes to my writing, but that doesn’t stop that internal nagging voice that says I am wasting my time that could be better spent on something “productive.” Reading Bourne’s article was a welcome step back from my doubts as I prepare to query agents with my third manuscript, and brace myself for more rejection.

— EB in Lansing, Michigan

 

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