On craft as catharsis and the narrative trap
The 'voice' as I often refer to you--because everything you write rings with the gift of a remarkable, unmistakable, unforgettable author's voice. Why would such a writer ever give up? Nah!
"It’s a fine line, his begrudging smile seemed to imply, between aspiring to the life of Joan Didion and ending up like one of the characters who inspired her work." Alicia! What a great line. Thank you, Lyle for introducing me to the voice of Alicia Kenworthy. A lovely read.
Alicia: you always write with such precision and, as others have noted, "voice." Bravo for this outstanding essay.
I've been guilty of telling you to "write it out" before, and this post got me thinking about when it may or may not be useful to do so. For me, writing out anger and frustration and annoyance via satire is a great processing tool. But perhaps "writing it out" for you presents an even more formidable challenge.
The idea of seeing your life as a plot device is really compelling, and I don't know how you might rectify that impulse. Perhaps that very impulse is what makes you a writer in the first place.
If you'd indulge in an unsolicited thought experiment: maybe "writing it out" for you means taking an unexpected swing. Maybe you're the world's best sci-fi writer, and you just don't know it. Maybe you should dunk on one of society's villains -- it's fun, trust me. Maybe a literary fiction allegory about climate change is just the type of unexpected challenge you need.
"Never give up" is an empty platitude. But your talent is viscerally obvious. So, never give up.
It's so nice to see your name again Alicia. I love your writing. Please don't ever give it up.
I loved this.
I am so impressed by the good fortune and the way you have worked around heartbreak. You are a champion, Alicia. I’m generally a train wreck and can use the end of days as an excuse to never date again until I give in and try. As for a first, I am looking into the world of matchmakers at age 50, though have decided if it is not someone who sets my heart on fire then I’d rather have fun on my own. And you are such a lovely person, I know you will find your Prince Charming. Me, ugghh, I just don’t know how I didn’t meet the architect of my dreams while working behind the giant keyhole in the Guggenheim positioned between Robert Smithson and Robert Maphethorpe. What a better place??
If you are still in NYC, my old daily hangout was the Bluebell Cafe on 3rd. Down the street there is a veg vitamin shop deli combo that holds the elusive blueberry tofu knish. Only 3 shops in Manhattan have it, and I would negotiate the last one out of someone’s hands like it was a hostage situation. They are so good! Do have a knish, any knish, while you are there at least. I wish I was there and miss it so much. I’m more of a Manhattanite than a SFer, by far. The one thing missing in NYC: a good pool for someone who will want to swim daily. A pool in my pad in Manhattan and CA would see only my dust!
The word “housewife” brings on a cringe, and beware of those confusing the word housewife with housekeeper! I’m one person and I need my own housekeeper. Don’t sign any housewife agreement unless you’ve had it reviewed by the equivalent of a Kardashian (still have not seen even one show, and I know they are not the scrubbing bubbles, and have the biz). I’ve never even given thought to the Mrs. degree concept, and keep my professional world professional. I once went out with someone who thought that because he changed careers that I would have to change my world to match his and become something completely different, because he thought himself more important than me and that his success card always had to lead. I started making more money, got a serving of sabotage, and ended it. Know how you are valued! Housewife … pssshhtt, better pay a lot and include some travel and a housekeeper! Maybe matchmaking? I like the idea of introduction vs sidewalk serendipity, unless we are taking Guggenheim material 😎.
I will write on my substack again soon. So busy, and behind on ideas since I decided to take a break.
I've now had time to revisit this post, Alicia, and I'd just like to add two more things if I may. Firstly, I've always thought of writing as therapy is ok, but publishing that writing in effect turns readers into therapists, more so if the writing is just a whingefest. I'm speaking generally, not specifically about your writing, which I could read forever. The second thing is, looking at life through the lens of a plot is what writers naturally do. (I myself do it all the time.) That alone should tell you that you were born to be a writer.
Loved this vibrant and poignant piece, Alicia! "How often have I weighed major life decisions through a lens of plot?" Here's hoping you stay the writing course. Thanks for the intro to Lyle McKeany and see ya around Story Club.
You clearly have a voice, and I'd also encourage you to keep writing. But what's this shit about a few years left to be a housewife?? If you want kids, have kids - but middle-aged adulthood is not about retiring from Joan Didion experiences; it is one more, as worthy of being chronicled as interviewing the incarcerated murderer.