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Just the hits
I'm in Italy! Here's a compilation of my favorite issues to hold you over until I get back.
By the time you read this, I’ll be in Italy on a much-anticipated vacation, drinking vino, hunting for truffles, eating cheese, and exploring the streets of a new country as I celebrate my 40th birthday in style.
In the meantime, a bunch of new folks recently subscribed! (Hello and welcome!) Since I’m currently ordering gelato in broken Italian, this felt like the perfect opportunity to revisit some of So Relatable’s greatest hits from the last 3.5 years. If you’ve been reading for a while, I hope you enjoy this trip down memory lane. If you’re new, I hope this serves as a good introduction.
Buona lettura! Più presto! 🇮🇹
Sometimes, saying yes can open doors, whether it’s a person, an idea, or an opportunity. But every yes means saying no to something else, which is worth thinking about. What would this yes cost me? Am I comfortable closing other doors? In my case, yesterday’s yeses don’t need to be permanent. During the pandemic, when I was mostly homebound, I could take on extra freelance and commit to daily yoga, because I didn’t have anything else going on. Now, the world is changing again, and I’m changing with it. New doors are swinging open, and I’m ready to walk through them.
Even as I spent half a decade writing and revising, even as my agent sent my book to a long list of editors, even as those editors regretfully passed (always the regret!), I never truly believed my second book was meant to be my debut. Writing it was not an act of passion, but compulsion. The whole time I had this nagging feeling that there was a better book inside me.
Which is why, when I didn’t sell a book for the second time—when I failed, again—I wasn’t devastated or heartbroken or convinced that my literary career was over before it began. The point of writing is not publishing. It’s to keep writing no matter what, and in that sense I’ve been very successful.
I don’t know what people one hundred years from now will be interested in, what kind of books they’ll be hungry for. And it doesn’t matter, really. In one hundred years, there will be new stories to tell and new people to write them. My job is to engage with today’s world, to write for and to the people who live here, with me.
No one needs an MFA, not in the Year of our Lord 2021, when you can find or build so many of the things the MFA offers. You can attend literary readings, start a writing group, follow your favorites on Twitter, subscribe to (or write!) a lit-focused newsletter (Craft Talk and Counter Craft are two favorites), read as many books as possible, fiercely protect your writing time, and fall in love with your process. The MFA can be a shortcut to those things, but it is by no means the only path.
Big September Energy is New Year Energy’s spunky younger sister. Less a reckoning, and more an opportunity. While it has roots in academia, it doesn’t belong solely to the back-to-school crowd—Big September Energy is open to all of us. For me, September arrives on the heels of my birthday, after a long, languid summer when I’m in need of some fresh motivation. It also marks the start of what my goal-setting club calls Q4, the final quarter of the year and our last chance to make good on the lofty goals we set back in January. Big September Energy is renewed inspiration, an infusion of hope, and a dash of audacity.
When I was a teenager and even in my 20s, I thought it was important to preserve every scrap of myself. I couldn't imagine how much I would change over the decades, how little I would need those souvenirs. Now, I feel the complete opposite—I'm not interested in my history, or who I used to be. I don't want to look at photo albums, or thumb through old ticket stubs, or read the yellow pages of my middle school journal. I only care about now, about next.
A lot of writers like to talk about how much they hate writing. That is torturous and difficult, depressing and isolating. I can't relate. Sure, I have bad days. I often fear the thing I’m working on is a waste of time. I’m jealous when friends and acquaintances sell books. I occasionally want to throw my laptop out a window when I can’t figure out how to make a chapter work.
But even in those moments, the early morning hour I spend at my desk with my coffee and my current project is my favorite part of the day. I'm not a masochist. If I didn't love writing, if I didn't think I was good at it, I would simply do something else.
As it turns out, building a fence is a lot like writing a novel. You’ve seen plenty of fences, you recognize the various pieces, and you understand, intellectually, the mechanisms that hold it all together. But when you try to build your own from a pile of wood and concrete and nails, well, you uncover a lot that the fence in its final form does not reveal. The brush took three days to clear. The post holes had to be shifted because of massive roots. The ground was uneven, which meant the pickets had to be cut, which required so much math and measuring. Our little two day project spiraled and slowly ate away at the week, our evenings spent sweating under the setting sun while the chickens cocked their heads and the dog slept in a fresh pile of dirt.
When I was in grad school for creative writing, I assumed that my MFA would lead to a position teaching at the college level, or a job as an editor at a publishing house, or a freelance empire until I started selling novels and living off lucrative advances. I thought accepting any job that was not in a creative field would make me a failure, serve as proof that I'd given up. When it became clear that I was destined for marketing, I had to remind myself that I didn't get an MFA to become a teacher or an editor or a freelance writer. I got an MFA to help me write a book. As long as my day job gives me time and space to write while also treating me well, I can be happy. 💛
This trip to Italy is my first time out of the country in 14 years, and my husband’s first international trip EVER. We prepped by reading some guidebooks, watching a lot of Rick Steves on YouTube, drinking wine from Trader Joe’s Italy section, and maintaining that Duolingo streak. In other words, we’re mostly winging it! This is very unlike me, but I figure the worst that can happen is we eat an extra snack, order another glass of wine, and people-watch while we figure out our next steps. Wish us luck, and I’ll see y’all on the other side! ☕️
Hey, that’s me! 🥰
Thank you to Roz W., Sarah K, Shelby P., Kelton W. and Sandra M. for making my birthday issue a hit!
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