Dear Isabel (Letter/2)
by Mark Chmiel
Sunday 21 June 2015
Page 2, paragraph 1
About your “fear of rejection”: Do you have a “fear of attraction” as well? I wonder how many people fell in love with you in the Big City in the last two years, or had mild (or obsessive) crushes on you. Same for Central America. Not that such a fear would be better than that of rejection, but I suspect there are qualities in you that others are drawn to, fairly consistently. Am I wrong?
Don’t you have some of the BEST FRIENDS around? Here’s an assignment YOU’LL NEVER FOLLOW THROUGH ON—1. Select five of your dearest friends; 2. ask each to email or text you five of your most wonderful traits; 3. give them a deadline; 4. Collect and send to me for my archive. But you can then regularly review the list of 25 perceptions of your magical ways from those who are unabashedly biased in their love for you.
Sure, all writers imitate other writers and as time passes we forget just how much we are indebted to them, because we’ve internalized them, or what was good about their writing. In Dear Layla, Layla early on presents the “reading list” of books for her and the professor to read together; all the poetry ones she mentions are the works that the narrator gradually comes to assimilate so that the letter she reads has been shaped and informed, more or less, by said poets (Cardenal, obviously).
Page 2, paragraph 2
You write that the problem is knowing when to stop imitating. Don’t worry about it! Keep reading people who inspire you (ever read Sappho? Emily Dickinson? Zora Neale Hurston? Gloria Emerson? Anna Politkovskaya?) and if you NEED to, you will absorb them, probably mostly unconsciously.
Then, you mention the next Fiesta de los Demonios: What am I going to write about?
I am putting one idea in the post tomorrow, hope you get it by Friday. But I’d like to remind you (I think) of something I said on the phone. It’s perhaps THE MOST IMPORTANT ASSIGNMENT YOU’LL EVER DO, but don’t be anxious abut it. Here’s how simple it is—
- Get a kick ass playlist together.
- Get your fave beverage (caffeine?).
- Set your watch or timer for 75 minutes.
- Turn on the music, and on laptop or in notebook or on graphed paper, write WHATEVER POPS INTO YOUR MIND of stuff you wanna write about before you die. Keep going, don’t hem and haw, anything goes, “crazier the better” (Kerouac).
Carry that list around like you’re an asthmatic and it’s your inhaler. That List Means LA VIDA! When you have 7 minutes or 20 minutes or 1 minute, take a topic off of the list and keep your hand or fingers moving. Oh, no judgment, no criticism, no fear, no loathing, no prissiness, no grannie or overbearing prof policing in your head, anything goes, it’s your one unrepeatable life, it’s your divine imagination, que es tu proyecto!
“Escritura Libre o la Muerte!!!”
Have you had enough? Do you now regret meeting up with me at Cafe Ventana in chilly January?
OK, 2 pages down. 11 to go.