Last week, I ordered books from the local independent bookstore. It was my yearly book-buying gig. Each Octoberish, I get the latest edition of Best American Short Stories, and Best American Essays. This time, I also ordered Best American Poetry and Best Spiritual Writing. They arrived Monday, (Two days before the DVD order I placed at Amazon, on the same day, arrived. Go Independents!), and I picked them up yesterday. (Actually, Best Spiritual Writing was from last year. Seems there’s not to be one, this year. Grrr…)
I’ve been getting Best American Short Stories every year for two decades. Some years ago, I managed to get copies of previous years’ editions. I now have each year’s edition beginning with 1978. Best American Essays, I’ve only been getting each year for the last five years or so. During my last visit to Telluride, I bought Best American Poetry for 2011 and 2012, at the Independent Bookseller there. I liked them so much, I’ve added it to the yearly list. I planned to include Best Spiritual Writing, but now… I used to get them each year, but fell outta that habit. Bums me that when I’ve gotten “back” into the habit, it’s looking like I’ll not be able to continue it.
I began my writing life wanting to be a short story writer, then I branched out into essays. Most recently, I’ve had more luck with essays than shorts; and poetry is wide-opening itself. I think my writing, and especially my essays, tends toward the spiritual. It’s because these are where I see and want my writing to go/be is why I’m seeing what’s the best of what’s out there, each year.
So, now, I’ve got some reading work ahead of me. There’s far worse work to have.
I was brought up to not bother anybody. During the passing years, this has been transformed into a quiet, behind-the-scenes modus operandi. This is okay and good for dealing with people, especially at work, but it’s not such a good tendency for someone wishing to be a writer, to get their stuff “out there.” Case in point: Susan Tweit had to urge me repeatedly to check with High Country News regarding my essay they’d accepted eight or nine months before, to see where it was in their queue. When I did finally ask, after more than a month of Susan’s persistence, a whirlwind of activity ensued around my essay, which led to it being published not long after my query.
Further, when the local land trust organization recently held a reading at the local independent bookstore, I put off contacting anyone to find out whether I could be added, reading that same HCN essay. Once again, when I finally did ask, just one day before the reading, I was quickly added and included. As it turned out, I was last to read, and was told that my reading gave the event a proper ending.
It’s such a short distance between being brought up not to bother others and seeing yourself as being not worth the bother. In my last blogpost, I showed how this spilled into my perceptions of myself as a writer, and especially with seeing myself as a poet. In both of the mentioned circumstances regarding my High Country News essay, it was only after “bothering” somebody that my writing was finally able to fulfill its intent: to inform and serve.
Of course, this question of, Why bother, also applies at the beginning stages of writing, when envisioning and crafting each piece—even and especially the pieces of writing that never get beyond being just parts and pieces, never becoming wholly completed works. We bother doing the writing, and bother others about our writing, because in each case it turns out to be no bother at all.