Guest Post, Chris Maday Schmidt: 10 Tips for Pursuing Your Passion Regret Free

Tips The other day I ran across a video posted on social media: A man wearing a backpack stood in the middle of a valley flanked by snow-capped mountains. Animated clips flashed on the screen, emphasizing his impassioned plea to live your dream—your purpose—now. He talked about how people on their death beds are less likely to regret the things they did in life as opposed to those they didn’t.

It doesn’t matter if you’re 22 or 92; it’s only too late when you entertain regrets of the ‘could’ve, would’ve, should’ve’ variety. Here are 10 tips to help you pursue your passion regret free:

  1. Start where you are. Every day is a new beginning—a clean slate to embrace in all its quirky imperfections. As the narrator of the video stated: “You cannot start over, but you can start now and make a brand new ending.”
  2. No right way. There is no magic formula for getting from point A to point B. Your mantra might be ‘trial and error’ or ‘go with the flow.’ Modify as needed.
  3. Quit comparing. Joseph Campbell writes: “The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.” You’ve heard the saying: Life would be boring if everyone was the same. Now live like you believe it.
  4. Life doesn’t stop. Stuff happens. Appliances break down, illness and injuries occur and sometimes bad news arrives in threes. Do what needs to be done and then see #1.
  5. Change of scenery. At times it may be necessary to step out of your comfort zone in order to follow your dreams. This might include changing a routine or your surroundings. Be open to the possibilities.
  6. Have fun. Oscar Wilde writes: “Life is too short to be taken seriously.” Laughter provides a balm to the soul and lightens the load. Lift the corners of your lips often.
  7. Refuse to fear. Jack Canfield says: “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” If fears are stories you tell yourself, then change your story.
  8. Remove distractions. Shut down when necessary; i.e., disengage from social media, email, etc. The world will not stop when you go off the grid to pursue your passion.
  9. Prioritize. Each day tackle the easiest, fastest tasks first. Then dive into your pursuit and camp out there as long as it takes. The piles of dirty laundry aren’t going anywhere.
  10. Delegate, ask for help. It’s okay to say ‘no,’ or to pass the buck, in order to create space to chase your passion, which is the one thing no one else can do for you.

The narrator in the video closes by illustrating how a plane is less safe when on the ground because it’s prone to rust and deterioration. When you don’t live your dream—your purpose—you clip your wings and ultimately remain grounded, much like that plane. Mired in regret. But when you put wings on your passion, you begin to take flight.

John Greenleaf Whittier states it best: “For of all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these, it might have been.”

What’s your advice to avoid the ‘could’ve, would’ve, should’ve’ mentality?

 

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Guest Post, Dan Pinkerton: The Long-Distance Writer

Daniel PinkertonThe finish line appeared before me like the gilded gate to some fabled city (only a slight exaggeration). In the recovery area I collected my medal and t-shirt, downed some Gatorade, reunited with my family, and now, a few blocks later, the Gatorade lay pooled by my running shoes. “Dad, it’s green,” my son pointed out. He was right. It looked like a vehicle with a bad radiator leak had just pulled away. My wife, realizing my state, went to fetch the car, so I leaned against the side of a building as my kids hovered around me on an overcast morning in Duluth. Race finishers and spectators strolled past, beginning the steep ascent from the harbor. They eyed the puddle of vomit, then me. Some understood my situation, I think, and some were confused or even repelled, but no one said anything. I herded the kids toward the far side of the alley, distancing us as though from the pooled blood at a crime scene.

This was my second marathon. The first had been a more low-key affair in my home city, little more than an experiment. I just wanted to see if I could finish without walking. Duluth had been a lesson in humility. For my kids the episode in the alleyway remains a fond memory, and four years later they still bring it up, that time they watched their dad spew greenish gunk like a guy in a sci-fi film. That morning I dehydrated myself to the point of sickness in an effort to better the time from my first marathon, ultimately finishing fifteen seconds faster. Months of training, often in wind, rain, snow, sometimes on ice-sheeted sidewalks. Entry fees, hours of driving, hotel and food and gas expenditures, and a race that left me pondering the efficacy of an IV, all culminating in this. Fifteen seconds.

Since that overcast day I’ve run thirteen more marathons, and as many times I’ve vowed, publicly and privately, never to run another. “Yeah, right,” my wife always replies, smirking. The smirk is galling but justified. As of the writing of this, I’ve registered for two more marathons and am eyeing two more beyond that. My wife is mystified by my perpetual cycle of training and racing. She, a non-runner, would prefer her getaways adorned with palm trees, white sand, and a steady parade of rum drinks with little umbrellas in them. She does not care to spend her few allotted vacation days in Wichita or Fargo or Toledo (all great marathon cities). She’d like for us to sit on our deck on warm Saturday evenings and enjoy a beer or two without me worrying about how it might impact my training run the next morning.

It would probably surprise no one when I say I’m uncertain marathoning has led to greater contentment, happiness, a newfound kinship with the almighty, or any of that rigmarole. I can’t even characterize the races as fun. If fun is rolling surf and suntan oil, marathons are, at least sometimes, white-out frostbite-inducing blizzards. There’s the nausea, the dehydration. I’ve been chafed to the point of shower yowling. I’ve been bone tired and plagued by body aches. I’ve suffered IT Band syndrome, shin splints, plantar fasciitis. During my last race I looked down to realize I’d bled through my shoe, which I later found to have been caused by two ruptured blisters. My toenails have blackened like overripe bananas, though not until recently did I actually lose one. It’s difficult to reconcile the swell of pride I felt when the nail came off in my fingers. I was quick to show the kids, knowing they’d appreciate this grim development the same way they admired my Linda Blair routine in the Duluth alleyway.

The pain I felt was primarily physical, and while there were tricks—training, Bodyglide, compression socks, electrolyte drinks—to diminish the discomfort, there was no way to circumvent it. The last few miles of a marathon become a study in pain management. This pain is different in character than the feeling that accompanies a 5K or 10K. The miseries of those races are quick and brutal, flash fires. The marathon is a slow burn. Throughout the race you’ve been consuming water, Gatorade, and energy chews or gels. This liquefied sugar combo leaves your mouth filmed with a sticky, unpleasant residue. Condensed sweat leaves salt on your skin in wavering lines like an EKG printout. At mile fifteen or sixteen, your feet start to ache, or your toes, maybe your calves or quads, maybe all of the above. Your sunglasses are sweat-streaked. Your singlet clings to you. You can’t seem to quench your thirst. In your head you’ve been splitting the race into manageable sums. Six miles down, only twenty to go. Ten miles, I’m at double digits. Thirteen miles, the halfway point! Sixteen miles, only ten left. At twenty or twenty-one miles, the steps grow heavier, ponderous. A simple incline from pavement to curb can seem taxing. As you sailed through the opening miles, you read the funny signs held by scattered spectators and you smiled, full of nervous energy and goodwill toward man (and woman). You high-fived a couple kids. Now your eyes are too tired to pass smoothly over the landscape, and instead you catch lurching snapshots. A volunteer sweeping up empty cups. A dog patiently licking its hindquarters. A discarded banana peel. The awkward form of a passing runner. A policeman waving traffic past. You hear a song, and its refrain loops endlessly in your head. You fixate. Why’s that guy with the weird gait faster than me? Is this what it feels like when convicts escape from prison? Where’d that juggler come from? You develop tunnel vision, eyeing only the road ahead. It isn’t focus but self-preservation, the way sailors jettison excess items from a sinking vessel. The scattered spectators slide away, becoming immaterial, except for those who call out something to distract you, maybe the name printed on your bib, and you’re grateful for those few seconds of diversion. You observe everything from a couch in the black-walled depths of your skull. Whereas with out-of-body experiences you’re lifted skyward to observe yourself dispassionately, here you’re being tucked more deeply into yourself. Meanwhile your mind keeps firing paltry distress flares. Go ahead and stop, just for a minute, it’s okay. No one will hold it against you. There’ll be other races. Walk through this aid station, lie down in that grassy area over there, take off your shoes and socks, rub your feet, find a t-bone and some beer.

This is your mind’s subterfuge, and you’ve got to short-circuit it somehow. You start counting each breath, each footstep. You get to a hundred and start over. Numbers, just numbers. Instinctive. Steps stretch out over distance and time in some unknowable, constantly shifting equation. Stay upright, press forward. Endure. Then the finish line, hastily erected to remind you how arbitrary the whole thing is. The gates of the gilded city.

I tried holding certain thoughts at bay:

  1. The distance, arrived upon (incidentally) so the runners in the 1908 Olympics might pass Queen Alexandra in her regal box seat.
  2. The time it took to cover that distance, whether five hours or three hours or fast enough to qualify for Boston. Ultimately, what did it matter? There were so many who ran the event faster. Why push myself to near-collapse when the end result reeked of mediocrity and obscurity? Even the elite marathoners, all but a handful, barely eked out a living. It was not a sport that commanded a following but rather an irritation for those motorists who happened upon closed streets on a Sunday morning.

Adam Alter wrote a piece on long-distance runners that appeared in the December 2015 issue of The New Yorker. The question Alter hoped to answer, or at least investigate—the question I’d been asked repeatedly, by others and by myself—was “Why?” Why put yourself through it? And voluntarily, no less. Why pay money for the privilege? Why, when the most someone like myself could hope for was perhaps a small gift certificate or a plaque or a pint glass? What caught my attention in Alter’s piece was the distinction he drew between happiness—what he defined as “a positive, momentary emotional tone” (i.e. fleeting)—and meaningfulness, “the sense that one’s life has broad value and purpose.” Alter pointed out the arbitrary nature of running and the paradox of trying to find meaning in something so inherently meaningless. The conclusion he came to, with which I agree, was that the event itself didn’t have any inherent meaning. Meaningfulness came from making, pursuing, and (hopefully) attaining a goal. Runners are goal-oriented people. We are planners, as evidenced by our spreadsheets detailing proposed races. When our plans don’t work out, which in running is about ninety percent of the time, we make new ones.

As one of the runners in Alter’s article explained (and I paraphrase), the goal should be a bit scary if it’s worth trying. I will never argue that the local charity 5K is a cakewalk, but as I grew more serious about running, I found myself less anxious the night before such events. These were my gateway drugs, and I was building a tolerance. I needed something to mainline. The marathon was the new opiate, providing the requisite level of fear. I slept fitfully the night before a race and woke with butterflies in my stomach, barely able to choke down yogurt or a bagel. That anxiety has not diminished, and I think it’s because with marathons there are no guarantees of success. My times have fluctuated, sometimes wildly, along with the state of my body. I’ve finished marathons feeling tired but unscathed, and I’ve finished with blisters, aching muscles, and an overwhelming urge to splatter an alleyway with recycled Gatorade.

Maybe it’s thrill-seeking, a way to quicken the heart rate, an activity to be lumped in with snowboarding and bungee jumping and motorcycling. Maybe a midlife crisis. But pain is the word I keep dancing around. I say I run marathons because I like setting goals, I like training and competing, I enjoy feeling like an athlete even in middle age. I crave the anticipation of the event before me, the jittery feeling. But I’m not really scared of failure, I’m scared of hurting. And if I’m truly honest with myself, I don’t just fear pain: I crave it. There are those of us who’ve reached the point where the pulse of our lives has slowed to a rhythmic beat. Monthly paycheck, mortgage, a job that requires us to spend the bulk of our waking hours tethered to a monitor. We need a jolt of voltage to free us from the waking dream. We seek out pain because after awhile even pain trumps monotony. The pain tells us we’re alive.

I don’t know how many marathoners are fiction writers or poets, but I’m guessing there are plenty, Haruki Murakami being perhaps the most famous example. I keep returning to his What I Think About When I Think About Running when I need to see how another writer approaches this inward and socially dubious pastime (by which I mean running, although creative writing might also qualify). Maybe now in the age of social media it’s easier to stumble across the writing/distance-running set, but I don’t think as a rule we do much self-promotion. While we like being patted on the back for our accomplishments, that’s not why we take up such sports. Most of us will never climb any podiums, but we keep toiling regardless, often under the apprehension we will fail (“Fail again. Fail better.”) but resolved to persevere anyway.

In fact, those looking for instant recognition are probably going to drift toward other pursuits, because the ones I’m describing here require long, slow trudging in isolated terrains. There are no YouTube shortcuts to overnight success. These are sports that take years, with progress coming in fits and starts. A story is taken by a prestigious journal and we think we’re set for literary stardom, only to endure twenty subsequent rejections and a plummet back to earth, back to the day job and the bills and the crippling self-doubt. The same is true of running. We set a personal record in March and expect our upcoming season to be filled with more of the same. Then we run a couple more races and find ourselves unaccountably slower. Then we over-train and pull a muscle. We can’t measure our success against other runners any more than we can determine the quality of our writing by the external reactions to it. We find our rewards in the process. I’ve come to enjoy the training, the lead-up, more than the race itself, to the point where the finish feels like a letdown and the week or two afterward I slip into a funk. In much the same way, the pleasure of writing for me comes with drafting and revising. Once the story or poem leaves my desk, making its way into the hands of editors, I’ve already squeezed every drop of pleasure from it. After the long courtship, I’ve lost interest, which is the way it must be.

And so I return to the question: Why do it? Why these particular pursuits, story writing and marathon running? Why, when success is so illusory? Why, when the apprenticeship takes years? Decades? When there’s no certainty you’ll ever master your craft? It all seems masochistic and a bit antisocial. The long, solitary runs; the hours spent at the keyboard while your loved ones are elsewhere.

I have no universal answers and can only attempt to describe my own mind. I lead what is in many ways a clouded existence. The work I perform at my day job is oftentimes unfocused. I’m distracted by the song playing on my headphones or the email I just received or the coworker stopping by to talk about his aphid problem or the latest Marvel movie. My home life is more of the same. The dishwasher needs to be loaded, the dog tore a hole in the window screen, my son is waiting for me to take him to baseball practice, my daughter is asking to play at the neighbor’s. Meanwhile I’m checking my Twitter feed and the Times headlines and fixing myself some cereal and wondering what I’m going to stream on TV later.

While running I might listen to a book or some music, but mostly I’m focused on my breathing, my form, my pace, to the extent that if you asked me what I thought about during my workout I probably wouldn’t be able to recall. It’s a mind-clearing exercise, spirituality without the handbooks and other paraphernalia. This becomes even more true in marathons, where these tertiary concerns slip away. In so many aspects of my life, I’m expending only a portion of myself, but with marathons and writing, the effort is absolute. It’s gratifying to finish a race and be able to say honestly that you pushed yourself to your limits. We often claim we did our best, often to salve the sting of failure, but how often is it the truth? In this sedentary age, where the act of walking to the vending machine seems greater than the reward, full-tilt effort is a rarity.

Writing offers that same opportunity. Whereas no piece of writing is perfect, just as no race is, there’s a thrilling sense of accomplishment when we’ve worked a story or poem to the point of comma-quibbling, brushing against the ceiling of our potential. I purposely use adjectives like “gratifying” rather than “fun” to describe the process. It’s mentally taxing, after all, but by that same token, I’ve always cringed when I’ve heard it called “work.” Anyone who’s spent even a single day laying sod or pouring concrete would agree that typing on a keyboard is something altogether different. If we wanted fleeting happiness, we’d go jet-skiing. When we write, we’re seeking what Alter described in relation to ultra-runners: meaningfulness, the ongoing passions and pursuits that shape our lives. Reaching the limits of our talents can be depressing, but only when we allow ourselves to gauge our efforts in relation to other people.

I avoid running groups and clubs, preferring the untethered feeling of solitary runs, where there’s no need to match anyone else’s pace or worry about making small talk or obsess about how loudly I’m breathing. In running as in writing, there is generally no collaboration. We might run with others from time to time, but the work we do is our own, just as with writing, where the ideas and the execution are ours alone. This increases the fear of failure because we’re solely accountable. Many teachers ask their students, with regard to a story or poem, what’s at stake. I don’t know that every piece of writing needs to answer this question, but I do imagine there should be enough danger in a good story or poem to scare its writer a little, a jittery feeling as the final sentences come about, the same way a marathoner feels on race morning. When we’re young, the risks occur naturally, when our relationships and financial standing and sense of self and burgeoning careers are all teetering. Writing isn’t a pleasant diversion or a habit formed over many years, like a callous. More often it’s the inflatable life vest on the plummeting airliner, a means of surviving in a world, adulthood, that is still largely uncharted. It’s a way of focusing, like counting to a hundred over and over to numb the pain that accompanies the final miles of a marathon.

If we’re fortunate, privileged, we might start to find what we’re seeking—a safe environment, a companion, steady work, health insurance—and the ground on which we stand becomes firmer. The uncertainty that characterized our youth starts to evaporate, but we keep writing, perhaps seeing it as a way to make money (yes, we’re still naïve) or advance our careers or because we’re compelled or because it’s something we’ve done ever since we were kids composing stories by hand in pencil, with great care, on lined sheets of paper. We send our most polished work to little magazines, ever hopeful. But here the purity of the act—whether putting words down on paper or running as fast as possible—gives way to the seeming randomness of the larger world. The arbitrary nature of the submission process can be maddening. Our best story is rejected by a third-tier journal only to be accepted later by a first-tier one. We send a batch of poems to an editor who takes the worst while declining the others. We vacillate between condemnation of the editor (obviously clueless!) and dejection over the incompetence of our own work. Maybe we’re the clueless one. Though I’ve tried to brush aside such judgments, considering them the opinions of editors whose tastes simply didn’t jibe with mine, I’ll admit they’ve had a cumulative effect on me, a wearying, calcifying effect. Maybe it’s just the accretion of so many rejections, but they’ve come to seem like stones in a wall separating me from the pleasure of writing. I’ve ignored my own advice to tune out the noise.

Even though the distances are arbitrary, there’s a truth to running. Each competitor in a given race must cover the same ground, so if someone beats you it’s not because of a third-party espousing his tastes or pushing an agenda, it’s because that runner was faster. I appreciate the simplicity in that. There are no referees interpreting rules, no coaches playing favorites, just sweaty folks straining for the finish line. It’s fair, it’s democratic. Effort prevails. I think this is why I find myself spending more and more time these days browsing running websites and magazines rather than literary ones. I’m more careful not to skip a track workout than a writing session. I’ve grown tired of watching writers jockey for position and trade favors and flatter and attempt to commodify something that isn’t much of a commodity. Running is what holds me aloft these days while writing feels at times like the ballast, the chore. I’m searching for a way to make it new and fun again, a way to filter the outside expectations, because there aren’t any, not really.

SR Pod/Vod Series, Recording: Poet Patricia Clark

Patricia Clark pictureThis Tuesday, we are proud to feature a podcast of SR contributor Patricia Clark reading her poems from Issue 17.

You can listen to the podcast on our iTunes channel, podcast #224.

You can follow along with Patricia’s poems in Superstition Review, Issue 17.

More about the author:

Patricia Clark is Poet-in-Residence and Professor in the Department of Writing at Grand Valley State University. Author of four volumes of poetry, Patricia’s latest book is Sunday Rising. Her work has been featured on Poetry Daily and Verse Daily, also appearing in The Atlantic, Gettysburg Review, Poetry, Slate, and Stand. Recent work appears (or is forthcoming) in Kenyon Review, New England Review, Southern Humanities Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Prairie Schooner, Coal Hill Review, Plume, and elsewhere. Her new manuscript of poems is called Goodbye to the Poetry of Marble.

Guest Post, Eric Maroney: The Limited, Forever Living Thing

Man Reading Torah“Rabbi Meir said, anyone who engages in Torah study for its own sake (‘lishma’) merits many things”


We are always torn apart. Behind the face we present to the world, there is a fracture. Two rudiments in our nature spar: the craving for control, and the dread of disorder. These opposing states, so closely linked, cause us no small misery, but the dynamic is so much a part of our ingrained habit of thinking that we constantly try, though with little success, to smother it with all manner of distractions.

We frequently wake up early in the morning with a crashing, dawn-clarity in the form of the question: What can I do about some awful problem? What we are really asking above and behind this question, is “can this problem be contained or controlled?” And if not – if the problem can’t be mended – how do we live with our sense that by not resolving this difficulty, and by allowing it to stand shamelessly unresolved, life’s great promise of joy will unravel from its spool? Further refined, we can distill the question to its rock hard core: How do I live with pain, grief, anguish?

We have all encountered such moments. But nothing distresses the quest for control more than a crisis of health. The body lurks, waiting; it conceals sickness under skin, tissue and bone. Beneath the veil of our physical stability, a system bubbles toward disorder. My own crock boiled over when I was twenty-nine and diagnosed with cancer. At a time of life when people typically view mortality though a long lens, my death seemed more immediate. I had no resources to deal with the reality of death: therefore my responses were limited. My mind contracted under the idea of death. My notions were hedged by binary postures: fight, win, move on, or fight, lose, die.

Pressed in this vice, I ultimately found it most reassuring to learn to abandon the notion of continued life. This brought a measure of peace. Death is the ultimate negation – a blunt, inescapable fact. Somewhere on a cosmic script, the conclusion is written in indelible ink: you will die. So by embracing death, by laying down at its feet, I let go of the struggle against its oppressive strain. I was still bound to life, to be certain, but only by sheer threads.

In the first few years after surgeries and treatments, I devalued existence. This attitude worked under a certain set of narrow conditions. But as I expanded my horizons after the disease, this stance evolved into a crisis of conscience. How can we live without embracing life? Clinging to death is a poor long term-solution, for even after the cancer was in remission, there was still the fact that I might die at any moment. Death simmers inside of us. My unbending cheapening of life did not solve the problem of death – it merely postponed it. I had driven myself to the verge of an existential cliff. In order to continue to live, I had to change the mental formula that had been useful since I was diagnosed with cancer – because the thin gruel of indifference to life cannot sustain a flea.

If we face suffering, sickness, depression and death, we can turn to something well beyond us: religion. In the years following a great crisis, I turned to Judaism. But my reason for this move, I believe, veers very far from the common expectation. Religion did not provide me comfort. A Jewish life did not offer me hope of a healthy body as a reward for my virtuous actions, or the recompense of an enchanted afterlife beyond a bodily existence marked by pain and suffering; nor did I seek the protection of a powerful and providential deity who could answer my prayers.

On the contrary, Jewish practice catapulted me beyond the bounds of reward and punishment to a real “space” where my deeds are free from the expectation of reward. This is a crucial point: by practicing Judaism, I can relinquish control to the realm of pure Jewish action. In the language of Judaism I perform the mitzvoth, the Jewish religious requirements, not for any payoff, but, as is said in Hebrew lishma, for and in themselves. This perspective has steered my apathy and indifference into more disciplined channels.

I practice Judaism to practice it. This sounds like an echo, but the seeds of this practice produce sturdy foliage. With Jewish ritual practice detached from reward, I can pursue a goal without the restraints of expectation. My mind and heart practice Judaism’s ritual demands with detachment. Detachment, of course, has pejorative implications – a lack of caring, a stance of aloofness – but it can also emancipate; and in a paradoxical turn, the freedom of detachment can transform our indifference into a more vital, lasting form of care. And the practice of lishma, of doing a deed in and for itself, can be exercised everywhere. By living life lishma, the mind is freed from the stark habit of thinking that the two rudiments in our nature spar: the craving for control and the dread of disorder.

In lishma, we transcend the need to control the events of our lives. Order happens, disorder happens – they are states that come and go and we have no control over either. But no matter what happens, we perform our duty and live life. Our imperative to action is action itself. With patience and practice, even life’s gravest challenges and abrupt transformations become shaded in different hues. Events take on the color of the moment, rather than the stain of our anxiety for specious stability. When we are no longer distracted about the issue of control, we are able to free ourselves from the slavery of expectations. And by doing so, we are able to see ourselves in the light of the singular, precious instant.

Guest Post, David Klose: On Falling In & Out of Love with Writing

I start out wanting to write a Blog Post for Superstition Review. I want to make it funny. Knowledgeable. Relate-able. The reader should laugh and think “I would like to talk with this writer.” All great writing is getting people to think they know you, that they would want to talk with you.

But I have no idea what to write about. I just graduated from college and that is about as boring and overdone a topic as any. I might as well write about golfing, or about the time I played flag football at a local park and discovered I am not the sort of person who should be playing flag football at a local park.

I like to write, but have written nothing of tremendous value. That isn’t fishing for compliments, just speaking objectively. Therefore I can’t offer advice to writers, though I have in the past done this very thing and, to this day, I still feel guilty about it. My writing is not terrible and has made some money in academic contests but I know, what everyone knows, but no one likes to say, that undergrad academic contests aren’t worth anything except the prize money. So I can’t write about being a professional writer, because I am not a professional writer.

I’ve had great experiences through my time as a Blogger/Non-Fiction Editor/Student Editor in Chief at Superstition Review, but others, in ways I cannot top, have written about those very experiences for this very Blog. Others, in ways I have yet to mimic, have taken those experiences and grown because of them. I have been to a writing conference but already have, in a previous post, beaten that horse to death with a very small club. I have been to AWP but spent more time touring the city than touring the Book Fair (shameful, I know, but who could have guessed I was to fall in love with cold beautiful grey Minneapolis?).

Hiking TrailBloggers tell you to write what you know, to relate to your audience through what you know. Good with dogs? Write about dogs. Write about how finishing a short story is similar to teaching a new puppy how to piss outside. It’s all about consistency. Go on a lot of hikes? Write something about the writing process and compare it to hiking a new trail, a harder trail than usual. It’s all about persistence. But my dog still sometimes pees on the living room rug, and the last trail I hiked ended with a whimper, not a bang. I thought maybe I could write about how to make the world’s best macaroni and cheese, but then I remembered, halfway through that ill fated blog post, that the best mac and cheese I ever had was made by a girl named Beth one drunken night six years ago at a friend’s house where we were all drinking wine out of plastic red cups and that recipe, like my connection to Beth, was completely lost after that night.

Telling me to write about what I know has always been a sort of cruel task; because I want to write about what I don’t know, and about that which makes me question my sense of authority. I am reminded of a writing professor who, in a soft rant against ‘trigger warnings’, asked our small workshop circle “Isn’t getting triggered the point?” For me, it goes like this: isn’t admitting you don’t know the point?

Here’s what I don’t know: the value of writing and whether or not I am a writer. I have loved books from a young age and can point to moments in my life that were shaped directly by the works of Salinger (specifically his collection of short stories revolving around the Glass family), to Tolstoy’s War and Peace (one of the first books that genuinely made me want to be a better person) to Dubliners by James Joyce which made me first think about becoming a writer. There are more recent examples, as well. In Matt Bell’s Scrapper there is a scene, where our protagonist finds a stolen boy and the snow is falling overhead, and where I, the reader, was so completely transported into that scene that my heart skipped a beat. But the more I work on Social Media for my job, the more I interact with other readers, with other writers, the more new books and new styles of writing I read, the more the doubt inside me grows. As valuable as stories have been to me, how can we properly value them? There have been blog posts in the past about how writers should be paid, for their stories, their poems, and that magazines shouldn’t expect writers to be content with just getting published. But can we really make that case? I would argue the opposite. That now in this sea of media, where everyone, through so many mediums, has the ability to share their voice, the value in stories is dropping or, at the very least, leveling off in an over saturated market.

This makes me doubt my writing. Do I really just want to be another voice in the market? Is there anything I can say that someone couldn’t say better? I honestly don’t know. That’s why I wanted to write this blog post, because I have no idea. What I see, through Social Media, are countless writers celebrating the fact that they are just writing. And this gets me a little depressed. It isn’t enough that we are just writing. It isn’t enough that we can take photos of our notebooks next to coffee cups and filter the image to look antique and post it. Perhaps this is the result of working in a book store and seeing just how many books get published and how few new writers actually get read. It isn’t enough that you have a story to tell. But now I am giving advice to writers, which is something I already said I wasn’t going to do. So let me stop while I am ahead.

Here’s where the title of my blog comes from: I saw Ira Glass perform at the Mesa Arts Center a few years ago in the show “Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host.” It was one of my favorite things I have ever seen and in that performance, Ira Glass quoted a friend who said “when we choose to be with one person for the rest of our lives, we are choosing the person we will spend the rest of our lives falling in and out of love with.”

I think it’s safe to say I’ve fallen out of love with writing. Like any great relationship, falling out of love makes me think of our earliest moments. I remember the first real Creative Writing class I had, where the teacher wrote the words “blue boot” on the whiteboard and asked us, rhetorically, what we were thinking of in that moment. Of course the answer was: a blue boot. Wow, the teacher said quietly, isn’t that amazing? Just by putting two words together, an image was created in our mind. What if, instead of a boot, we did that with a town? Instead a town, a world? Instead of a world, an emotion? What if, through words, we could create the idea of love, of loss, of fear, inside our reader? Wow, all of us students quietly said to ourselves.

This is all to say I still love reading good work. There were two writers I met at Bread Loaf whose writing I loved. One of them had already published a book and I read it in a matter of days. The other one hadn’t published a novel yet, but was certainly almost finished with their first draft. I look up their names every now and then in the usual places. Linkedin. Twitter. Instagram. They aren’t there. They don’t exist on Social Media and this makes me so goddamn happy. Now I can tell myself that, wherever they are, they are focusing on their work. Nothing else. And that one day soon their next book, their next story, their next finished product is going to be put out into the world, and whatever they have created with their words will be stirred within me.

SR Pod/Vod Series, Authors Talk: Poet and novelist Deborah Bogen

Deborah BogenToday we are pleased to feature poet, novelist, and SR contributor Deborah Bogen as our thirty second Authors Talk series contributor. Deborah addresses two points in her Authors Talk. The first point she explores is “some of the problems people are going to have when they enter a field that is, quite frankly, flooded.” The second point is “How do you connect with other writers?”

When MFA programs started, it seemed possible to have a teaching job in academia and also a be a writer. But so many people are graduating from MFA programs every year that it is no longer realistic to assume one can get a good academic job. Trying to help you “stay sane and stable during your writing career,” Deborah has three alternatives to having an academic job: take a day job, teach at a (private) high school, and find a job that needs good writers.

She says though “it’s hard to give up the desire – I can’t be the only one who has this – it’s hard to give up the desire for big time recognition,” it just isn’t going to happen for everyone. (Although she has some tips to help you find that coveted big time recognition.) Since every writer cannot be famous, she suggests investing in your local reading/writing community. Being part of a local writing community gives you the chance to meet other talented writers and get inspiration and new ideas.

You can listen to the podcast on our iTunes channel, podcast #223.

Deborah has contributed to Superstition Review Issue 12, 10, and 4.

Phoenix Summer Social: Susan Briante

PHX Summer SocialWednesday, July 13th, at 6 pm to 8 pm, poet Susan Briante will be reading some of her poems from The Market Wonders at Co+Hoots. The Market Wonders, inspired by the Dow Jones Industrial Average, encompasses more than stock fluctuations and financial markets; the poems call upon others topics such as theoretical physics and the function of art. This event is hosted by The University of Arizona Poetry Center and the Walt Whitman Circle. It is free and open to the public.

More information is available on Facebook.