I’ve been reading some things lately that are so good it hurts that I didn’t write them. This story by Travis Hessman at PANK. Everything by Roxane Gay on tumbr. It’s what I felt the first time I read Wendell Berry–his novel Jayber Crow. So happy that someone had written that. Sad that it wasn’t me. I’m not saying this is a healthy reaction.
Roxane Gay was at a writer’s workshop I went to last summer, but I had no idea who she was. I read her description on the webpage. I knew she edited a literary magazine. I went to her workshop on flash fiction and another session where she talked about getting published in literary journals.
The workshop was three days long, and I’m not sure if anyone there appreciated who Roxane Gay was. There was a lot of that fine-grained anxiety you get at big writer’s conferences when there are agents there. “How’d your pitch go?” people kept asking each other.
The whole time, I could have been hanging out with Roxane Gay. Asking her how she produces such a monumental body of work, and all of it so good. Sitting at her feet. I would sit at Roxane Gay’s feet. So, I missed out there.
I asked my husband, “Are there things you read sometimes that are so beautiful it hurts that you didn’t write them?”
“Yes,” he said. They were history books by Robert Darnton and essays by Julian Barnes or Christopher Hitchens.
We stood for a moment contemplating the things we would never write and then I went to clean the downstairs toilet, because it needed to be done.