Just finished reading Kathleen Norris The Cloister Walk, the book that inspired my decision to live with nuns. A friend of mine recommended a chapter out of the book for me many years ago. She was reading the book for a theology class at Boston College, and a particular chapter on the “otherness” young artists feel. It was such a powerful chapter that I went back and read the whole thing. This time I underlined passages to reflect on later in my writing career.
Norris is full of wisdom and possesses just enough irreverence to keep me reading. Today I had a realization about why I’m drawn to certain mediocre spiritual writers over others who are unarguably geniuses. I’m not calling Norris a mediocre writer, by any means. However, I realized any spiritual reading I come across that is void of confession, no matter how brilliant, doesn’t hold my attention. This is no doubt a sign of my youth and immaturity. Reading older, wiser writers who focus too much on healing and spiritual bliss are at a phase of life I can’t relate to. As insightful as I like to pretend I am, let’s face it: I’m only 24. I relate better to pieces about hangovers, promiscuity, and self-destruction than I do about enlightenment. I especially enjoy art that combines such things.
I felt a moment of impatience, wishing I could have wisdom now, which made me laugh. Wanting immediate results is the opposite of wisdom. It was a reality check, reminding me to stop taking myself so seriously. I need to appreciate the phase of life I’m at–naivety, out-of-control passions, and all.
Life is extraordinarily busy right now, which is part of the reason I haven’t updated. The other reason is that I hit a wall in my writing, and I didn’t have the energy to break through. I dealt with this by shutting down, refusing to go through the process of translating ideas and images into sentences and evaluating the worth of each word. Even sending e-mails was getting to be too much writing. I owe a lot of people e-mails and phone calls. My apologies. Work and appointments have taken over my life. Working with kids is draining, even though I absolutely love it.
I’m no longer doing an official independent study with Marya. My plans changed so dramatically since she’d first agreed to work with me. Getting into grad school changed my priorities too. She said I wasn’t in a place where we could be productive enough together. Since I already had time off work and tickets to Chicago, she agreed to continue to work with me–just not in an official structured way. It’s actually pretty cool. I get to pick her brain about the huge range of life experiences she has and writing. She’s a very busy woman, so it’s incredibly kind she still makes time to meet with me and puts up with a million questions. I feel pretty lucky to have access to someone whose been through the whole publishing young thing. She suggested I abandon writing a book for now. It shocked me to hear she regrets publishing her first book. At only 23, she published Wasted. It was a New York Times Bestseller and nominated for a Pulitzer, so she lived every young writers dream.
She said that you can’t escape the first impression you make as a writer. She’s 38, and yet everyone still talks about what she wrote and thought at 23. I haven’t given up hope of writing a book young, but it’s not a priority anymore. Instead, I want to use my masters program to learn everything I possibly can about craft, discipline, and teaching at the college level.
Three weeks until I move south and start my program. It’s sneaking up on me, and I’m a bit overwhelmed. I have guilt about all of the people in my hometown I haven’t been able to meet up with; I owe a lot of people phone calls and e-mails. It makes me want to hide in bed under the covers when I get home from work. This is my only weekend at home before I move, and I’m supposed to be cleaning and packing. I’d rather do just about anything rather than pack. Packing makes me depressed every time. I don’t fully understand why, but I think it might be a reminder of life’s impermanence.
This is just a lame, surface level update. I’ll try to do a more detailed update soon. Despite being busy, life is good.