I've been getting some flack for pieces in The Denver Post. And some good stuff. Of note in my Nixionary inbox after my last few articles:
A single-sentence man writes: "You should learn how to fish."
John tells me about the book he's writing and the books his semi-famous southern son has already written.
A woman living in the Sangro de Cristo range without electricity was crumpling up newspapers to start a fire in her wood-burning stove and came across a few of my wrinkled ideas.
An email with no body. Subject read: "If you need extra income I have here some information that you might need."
Another one: "If you look to the bottom of the real barrel, Ms. Nix, what you'll see is yourself." (Extra care taken to italicize).
An email from an old swim team friend I knew when we had hair on our legs and painted "Homestead" down our thighs in zinc oxide, who writes that she believes we can hold a lot of pain, but we have the capacity for just as much happiness.
An online comment from someone I know who says that "occasionally" my writing crosses the boundary from "stylistic to sappy."
Yeah. Well ...
I've tried to respond to all of the emails that were reasonably written. My mom and I took a walk tonight towards the jagged black silhouette of the mountains and talked about how people never seem to know what they (themselves) sound like. I took a long bath and let the conditioner sit in my hair for half an hour and that felt like I was doing something with definite results.
Now I'm sitting here in my thick white bath robe with the tips of my hair dripping Pantene Pro-V Intense Conditioner down my neck. Somewhere between July and now, the ugly-mean emails have begun to matter less and the good ones have begun to matter more. I wonder if I only want to be conditioned with goodness once it comes time for public judgment, and if so, does that make me a self-absorbed writer, or just a realistic one?
I'm reading Volume One of The Paris Review Interviews, and up pops this part from an interview with Truman Capote who calls the interviewer "girl," and says things like "Heavens," God love him.
Of note here--
Interviewer: Do you think criticism helps any?
Capote: After something is published, all I want to read or hear is praise. Anything less is a bore, and I'll give you fifty dollars if you produced a writer who can honestly say he was ever helped by pissy carpings and condescensions of reviewers. I don't mean to say that none of the professional critics are worth paying attention to--but few good ones review on a regular basis. Most of all, I believe in hardening yourself against opinion.
I believe in it, too, but believing and being love to play opposites. For me, hardening is harder than softening. The sappy comment really stung and I've been trying to wash it out of everything I've ever written. I know, that despite (and maybe even because of) my efforts, it's staying put. Sap's in me. And it's sticky.