What I've been reading: talented friends, memoir, and social media

I’m a runner. I started running when I was fifteen and except for a recurring back injury, I haven’t stopped since. So my friend Jane Campbell’s essay at Hazlitt on running, pain, and persevering when you just want to end it (spoilers: it’s about more than just running) was a breathtakingly awesome read.

Meanwhile, over at The Awl, my friend Nicole Boyce writes about the commodification of nostalgia, an event called 90sFest, and delivers this awesome line: “(W)e were being marketed to, but not necessarily duped. And for the first time, I felt real nostalgia: not for Rugrats or Steve Madden shoes, but for a time when I was less skeptical about buying the experiences I love.”

And while we’re on the topic of personal essays, this article on memoir, taboos, and trust was gripping and useful reading for me. I tread this line whether I’m working on fiction or nonfiction, and even if I’m making something up, it seems a given that someone will think it actually happened.

I teach a workshop at St. Louis Community College on social media for writers (there is an irony in there, but I’m not sure if it’s real irony or the Alanis Morrissette version). A couple of articles I’m going to recommend this year are this one: “Please shut up: Why self-promotion as an author doesn’t work” and this one: “Wait, Keep Talking: Author Self-Promo That Actually Works”. It basically boils down to be yourself but don’t be me me me all the time, lift other people up, and don’t do it if you don’t want to. But still, go read them because there’s more to it than that.

Whenever I have periods where I can’t keep up my momentum, I seem to come across things that help stoke the furnace. This comic, for one. This article, as well. Rejection comes with the territory, and it’s (usually) never personal, even if it feels personal to us. Reconnect with what you love about what you do: crafting the sentence with exactly the right number of words, getting the color of the sky just right, landing the punchline. Whatever it is, don’t let go of that.