I discovered a new writer. She is beyond brilliant. She has some Oregon roots, too. Her name is Rachel Kushner and her essays and novels are blowing my mind. They are infusing my own writing. In her recently released collection of essays, The Hard Crowd, she writes:
To become a writer is to have left early no matter what time you got home.
That line arrested me like few lines about writing ever have. It made me want to respond. So here I am responding.
I left Portland early in 1997. The story wasn’t there for me then. Is it now?
I left my marriage early because I didn’t know how to be in a relationship and pursue a writing life at the same time. I think I do now, given there was an opportunity to do so.
I left Turkey early because the expatriate story didn’t inspire me to write about America. It was all cliche but at least with great food and ancient ruins and swarthy Turkish men giving me close shaves.
I left Christianity early as a preacher’s kid. At the time I didn’t realize it, but it did occur. Much later, I understood that there was a story in remaining a Christian, but leaving the faith was a much better one and totally unscripted, unlike Christianity.
I left teaching at Taft High School too early, but a unique opportunity to really become an Oregon writer of merit emerged from nowhere and I took it. I did let some students down with this decision. I still remember a student throwing a book at me when I informed a class. It missed, but only because I ducked.
I left an artist and a fire in a wood stove too early, claiming it was about a dangerous drive in a snow storm. But I wanted to write and now it seems like one of the dumbest decisions I have ever made.
I left a bed too early one morning, to write about Don Berry. Then I rationalized it to someone who asked me not leave. We’re talking about sleeping in one extra hour.
I left the construction job too early. Had I remained I could have got pretty decent at it. I left it for a job with a terrible, embarrassing newspaper. I did, however get, a good cannabis Christmas story out of the newspaper job.
I left the RV park too early, but not by much. I could feel my time there coming to an end. And I left early because of duty to my family, which typically kills writing, but luckily I’ve matured enough after leaving early too many times to know how to perform a family duty and write.