I was catching up on reading when I came across this article in The New York Times Magazine. It’s about a Southern writer named Padgett Powell (I’d never heard of him). When his first novel came out in 1984, Powell was a literary darling, scooping up writing prizes, finding his name on all sorts of superlative lists, and even nabbing a job teaching at the University of Florida. But as he kept writing, he kept challenging the stodgy status quo of the American literary establishment and you can pretty well guess what that meant: he was quickly relegated to obscurity. After reading Dan Halpern’s profile of Powell, though, I’m compelled to read some of his work. I mean, how can we possibly shove aside a writer who, as Halpern wrote, “does [what] most writers don’t dare anymore… risk failure.”
Lots of my writer friends have been reflecting on the writing process lately: Carlo. David. Eileen. Josh. Liz. Lola. Sarah. They’re coming at the issue from different angles, but what I sense pulsating just beneath all of their words is Padgett-esque: the desire, the need, to write on one’s own terms. The imperative of stepping out of the social media gyre long enough to really just be with words, to remember and feel the pleasure of writing again. The acceptance of the fact that even if no one else reads what they’re writing, that the act of writing itself means everything.