Tag Archives: Developing Your Craft

We Hate it When Our Friends Become Successful

2014Morrissey_0306192014While Morrissey’s lyrics have never been what I would consider cheerful or optimistic, his songs about heartache and longing still resonate with the lost teenager inside of me. Judging by his song title “We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful”, it appears that his more than 30-year career and loyal fan base has inspired resentment and jealousy among his fellows.* Yet I wonder how anyone could possibly begrudge a friend’s success, that is if he or she really cares about that friend.

Which begs the question: Are these people really your friends?

A very dear friend of mine—someone I have known since way back when I was still a lost teenager listening to Smiths cassette tapes on my Walkman—just published her third book, a graphic memoir about trying to connect with the Japanese half of her family. Last week, I attended her standing-room-only reading at a popular Haight Street bookstore before she headed out for her multi-city book tour.

I have never been published. I do not have an agent. I have spent the last three years writing a novel that may never make it into print. So, am I envious of my friend’s success?

Yes and no.

Sure, I would love to have my book published. I would love to have a second and third book published. I would be both thrilled and terrified to read from my work in front of an eager audience.


Couldn’t resist this one.

But I do not feel even a drop of resentment toward my friend for achieving these things. I witnessed first hand the many years that my friend has practiced her craft: her drawing, her writing, and her storytelling. I have watched her quick pencil sketches and stripped down text transform into this beautiful book that I can now pull off of the shelf and hold in my hands. I saw how hard she worked to get her first book deal, and know well that she worked just at hard to get her second and third.

In short, I have seen my friend work her ass off to achieve her success.

As I watched her read from her new book in front of the packed room, I felt a swell of pride and privilege to know such an amazing person. Congratulations on all of your success, Mari!

*Or perhaps he just got rich and bitchy.


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What We Leave Behind

My neighbor died a couple of weeks ago. He was an older man, and had been ill for a long time. I’d passed him in the hallway many times during my seven years of living in the building, and he parked his car two spaces over from mine in the garage, but we never had more than a nodding relationship. Over the last few years, he’d become markedly more hunched over and his forays outside of his own home were less and less frequent. Every now and again, the newspapers would pile up in front of his door for a week, and I’d wonder if he’d passed away. But then a few days later, I’d see him hobbling down to the mailboxes or out to his ancient Toyota Corolla with the Catholic radio bumper sticker.

According to the tribute posted in the elevator, Rudy had lived in the building for over 30 years, and died in the hospital with his daughter and son-in-law by his side. This is all I know about the man at the other end of the hall. I have never seen inside his condo, have no idea if he was a minimalist or a pack rat, if the appliances are brand new or 30 years old. I have no idea what he left behind for his daughter and son-in-law to sort through, to throw away, or pack up in boxes. We spend so much time behind closed doors, surrounded by the things we have collected. And then the moment we die, our treasured belongings become Stuff That Someone Else Has to Deal With.

I did a quick mental inventory of my own belongs: if I was hit by a bus or had an aneurysm tomorrow, what would my family have to sort through, throw away, or pack up in boxes?

Generic Teen Angst PoemThere are the sentimental items (photos, favorite books), the disposables (toiletries, condiments, laundry detergent), the donation pile (clothing, shoes, vacuum), and of course the I-hope-my father-never-see-these items (sexy underwear, certain adult toys, lubricant). But when I picture my family members opening up cupboards and going through my drawers, the thought that makes me shudder with dread is of them discovering the cardboard boxes of old journals, school notebooks, angsty short stories, melodramatic romance epics, and other horrifying remnants of my youth.

Sure, we all struggle to define ourselves and find our place in the world, particularly in our youth. But we don’t all keep detailed written records.

In many ways, everything I wrote in my teens and early twenties is just as significant as anything I write today. The preteen soap opera-inspired novels, the doom and gloom poetry courtesy of my world-weary fourteen-year-old self, the rambling notes scrawled to friends in Spanish class – these were precursors to all that has come after, up to and including this very blog entry. But this doesn’t mean that they should ever be exposed to another living soul. I mean, if reading them makes me blush while sitting alone in my own home, how would my parents react to such horrors?

I could easily solve this problem with a paper shredder, yet I can’t bear to part with these cardboard box time capsules. It would be like throwing away a big chunk of my life. And if we forget who we were, how will we know who we are?

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