Sustainable Bubbles


I love my bubble. I love when I post on Facebook a hundred times a day about my obsession with tracking my sales ranking for Sustainability on Amazon that I still get a bundle of likes. I like that my students laugh when I say “writing isn’t just putting your head on a piece of paper” and then put my head on the desk on top of a piece of paper to demonstrate that that is NOT what writing is like. I like that I can count on readers in the audience to laugh when I read to them about my neighbor who vacuums the rocks. I like when the breathless reading coupled with the slow waltzy reading reads like good energy. But when I read last night, that breathlessness plus waltz ended up making me sound according to the audience, crazy. They said things like, “how do you sleep at night with that going on in your head” and “wow. There are a lot of words there.” It was a different audience than my bubble. They were older and richer and maybe not really readers. It’s weird to think I only write to readers. Like full time readers. That might be fine but if part of my dream is to bring new information and stories and minds to other people, that maybe a narrow audience isn’t the best. Or maybe they were pushing back against the content—talking about sustainability to people who live in gated communities might not be their cup of tea. There were some kind questions—“Are you always worried about the apocalypse?” “How does one teach creative writing.” I think the question and answer session drew some more respect for what I was saying. I guy said, “I love your letters to the governor.” I tried to answer their questions without being a jerk. When the woman asked, “Why are prairie dogs important?” I responded, “Because they are so smart they can tell the difference between people in yellow shirts versus people in red ones.” I wish I’d said, “Why are any of us important?” I wish I’d asked the woman who wondered how I slept at night, “How do you sleep at night?” But I did fail. They didn’t get it. I chose the wrong thing to read or I had too high of expectations. Lawrence, who read with me said, it felt like a trial. He liked that feeling. I didn’t so much. Leaving the bubble is hard. I’m always surprised that, by the end, I haven’t persuaded everyone to my side. I do manage it, usually. So to leave the event feeling like they thought, man, there’s some crazy writing out there and with nary a book sold, I felt like a failure. I wish they’d understood that the writing is meant to convey a feeling of stress and wildness but that it’s cultivated. That’s how writing works. You don’t put your head down on the page and let the crazy seep out. You construct the crazy with very sane letters and images and associations. I told the one man who said, My, you use a lot of words and images in a row. So many metaphors, “That’s the point. How do we know where to land in our understanding of the way the world works. Sustainability isn’t the same to the otter as to the crawdad as to the hole. Or to you or to me. That’s what makes sustainability hard.” It’s also what makes writing hard and leaving your bubble hard. They didn’t buy any books, which hurt, but I do hope all not long, as they too don’t sleep, that the images I put in their heads of otters and crawdads and fracking and methane gas churn through their heads leaving them breathless.




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