I have followed Erica’s writing online for a couple of years now. Since I first found her blog and was lit up by something she’d put out into the world, we’ve written email after email, usually late at night and always rambly (in my case, at least). She has encouraged and inspired me in ways that would be sort of awkward to get into in an interview intro (although this is kind of that). Anyhow, for her interview we decided that we’d take our exchange to paper, via snail mail, because why not?
I got her letter (interview responses!) after a very long day and read them on the couch, a little drunk and very grateful. Here they are.
For years I blogged mostly about travel. I sat at these refurbished, dusty Dells in developing cities and wrote in a physical and mental vacuum about what I was experiencing and thinking and it was all just very one-sided. I hung it out on a little shingle and my friends and family offered biased praise from the motherland in ten words or less. It offered such a false security—left so much latent potential.
The thing I have come to love about Tumblr is that it’s not just writing in community. It’s reading and thinking and inspiring discipline and teaching in community. Some of the best things I’ve read anywhere have been on Tumblr by people I can email later that night. And correspondingly, I think some of the better things I’ve written this year were fleshed out and finished and offered up publicly because I know that would mean something to a community of not just friends but writers. I knew I would receive thoughtful feedback (when the writing warranted it) and might even prime the pump for someone else—returning the favor they’d done me with their piece I couldn’t stop reading the month before. And if my writing is flat—contrived or lazy or some flimsy imitation—well, I’ll know that through them too.
Writing in this community is life-giving and adds a fuel and urgency I haven’t felt in more static, one-dimensional platforms.
The book itself is a community of a different sort. Sometimes I envision it as a lit up apartment building, and I am standing across the street at night. I live across the hall from these people, quite literally, our stories are housed together but I don’t know most of these people yet. There’s a bundle of kinetic excitement I drag into each new story I read. A bundle of anticipation of new stories I’ll hear from writers I already love and all the moments I’ll meet from people I am related to but not in relation with.
When I reread this intimate little story, it’s not necessarily the transparency that gives me pause. It’s the fact that this is vulnerability and honesty as a snapshot, a still unfolding situation paralyzed in time and offered up for judgment. That’s daunting.
Oh, and yes, I do consider what people will think when they read it. The subjects of the story and the man that follows. But I don’t regret opening the blinds and showing a story—a process—that means as much to me now as it did then. There is something heavy in sharing it now as both a memory and one still tender. I think about friends and more accomplished writers scanning the paragraphs and the people I email at night, with the graphic portions open next to their laptop. And I wonder how some of them will see me differently—of course I do. But that is not a bad thing. It’s a thought without value judgment right now.
More so, I feel a little thrill…like the beginning of a relationship and those first emails you send in which you begin to make admissions and tell secrets and you are waiting with antsy fingers and a rumbling heart for him to respond. This is my life, this is my experience pulled out and pressed down like clover for you to consider; these are my basest feelings on love and sex and loss and climbing back under it all, all over again. And maybe this is a contribution to erasing the yoke of dignified conversation and what we are not allowed to talk about. Now, for better or worse, you have more of me, unrefined. Through the book, I will have more of a few of you. And maybe in the months ahead, through your own writing outlet, I’ll have more of all of you. This too remains thrilling.