Thursday, June 30, 2016

Once more I sit down to Write an Essay


When I sit down to write an essay, I think about E.B. White's "Once More to the Lake," and feel inadequate. It ruined me by being quintessential. I feel like essays should always have that introspective opening, with lots of description throughout, and unbeknownst to the reader, the writer becomes a wiley ninja, whispering a life lesson to the reader in the last few paragraphs.

The reader clutches said essay to his breast, looks up to the sky and yearns.

This is why I can't write an essay. I feel like I will never be able to make someone clutch and yearn.

When I try to write an essay, there are usually directions or writing prompts. Please take your experiences about being human and blow them wide open so the reader can be all, "That was so brilliant. His mind goes places mine never does." So, if I, the writer, were to live in France, even though I'm an American, they'd say, "That's why he lives in France and we don't."

Not that I'd want to live there. The only city in France is Paris, and I hear Paris is filthy.

The rest of France must be fields with cows in them.

When I try to write an essay, I believe one must be like a Fitzgeraldian alcoholic or kill himself ala David Foster Wallace, and then write about it.

I so badly (but not badly enough) want to be an all-powerful literary person. To be all kinds of well-read while being blissfully unaware, but softly Joan-Didion-esque.

"He knows what he's doing," the reader would say.

"He must be so literary," another would say.

"He's better than Jonathan Frazen."

I would retort: "Oh, 'The Art of Fielding' you say? Blah, blah. Should've won a Pulitzer. 'The Marriage Plot'? Yes, yes, so I've heard."

(All I know is they both use the same font style on their covers and that means it's the same story and therefore I won't read either of them because, in the eye of my brainstorm, I feel like both writers cheated off each other, even though they didn't design the book covers.)

When I try to write an essay, I want to guffaw at the list of books that blogs post that every writer needs to read. Instead, I want to write about how I am well-read in what I want to read. It's not very literary, nor is it Canonical. Is this bad?

This is where I would quote someone, even my grandmother, about being unapologetic for liking what I like and that my perceptions are not bad.

Then, I would uplift my statement by saying "Hey you, if you feel the same way, you can put down all that 'fine' literature." You can put down "The Corrections" by Jonathan Franzen or "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy and start reading "The Walking Dead" instead.

Like, it's OK now because I was that someone out there that said you could watch "Falling Skies" instead of "Mad Men." That you don't have to feel bad you're not watching the latest Aaron Sorkin TV show because you don't have HBO. That TNT dramas are just as good.

I want to write an essay that lets the public know that it's OK. You don't have to try so hard.

Instead, when I try to write an essay, a snobby old white man comes out of my mouth. He burps boring words onto the page that talks about my benign, middle-class existence. He tries to make it timeless, without mentioning titles and brands, and then he slithers away out of the room like Nagini, and I wonder "Why didn't I write 'Harry Potter'?"

I tell myself, this is why you dwell in fiction and not the essay. It is a far easier making. Otherwise, I sit up up at night trying to find truth in my indecision to wash my face before bed or why I choose not to watch "Mad Men."  

When I sit down to write an essay, I think about modeling the style after another essay out there, so it will be timeless, so I look up classic, well-written essays, and there it is, reminding me that it's an essay, just like the Duggers remind us that they have children: "Once More to the Lake."

And, once more, I sit down and try to write an essay.