I ordered Modern Love: 50 True and Extraordinary Tales of Desire, Deceit, and Devotion from half.com for a simple reason: I’d like to place an essay in “Modern Love,” a column that runs every Sunday in the New York Times that has to do with — you guessed it — love.
I’ve tried before, and after re-reading those essays, I saw why they weren’t accepted: they were angry and jumbled, more the rantings of a broken heart that something someone who doesn’t know me would want to read. I’ve been trying to write about the same relationship since it ended almost three years ago, but I don’t think I had enough distance from the break up to write about it clearly.
I touched on this topic in my review of Cleaving. If I didn’t have enough distance years after a break up, I doubt Powell should have been writing about the dissolution of her marriage while it was still happening.
The capper on trying this project again: the October ASJA newsletter interviewed Daniel Jones, who edits the column, about how to land something, too. Best way to land the assignment is to read what’s already been published, right?
There is no right or wrong thing to write about, it seems — the anthology includes essays on being a gay teenager at a prom, the don’t ask, don’t tell policy, the death of a child. Some essays are simply “here’s my story.”
Reading the anthology of past essays has helped me write out my story I was only into the second essay that I started re-writing the story I’ve tried so many times to write before. I kept getting back out of bed to type up what I thought would be a few notes about what I wanted to say. An hour later, I’d finished the shell of the essay, long before I finished reading all 50 entries in the book. I didn’t feel angst-y in writing about what happened, or re-living those events in my head. That’s a good sign that it’s finally time to write about it.
So far, I’ve gone through five drafts, and I think I have a few more to go. I’ll send it to a few writers to get their take, too, to tell me where they see flaws, where I need to expand, and what I need to cut. The revisions are the tedious, craft part. I could say writing it was easy, though I’ve been trying to write this story for so long. Maybe time will make this draft the right one to make it into print.
If my essay is not selected for the column, I’ll keep reworking, revising, and sending it to other publications. Essay writing is unlike any other writing I do. Not only am I writing about myself, but I finish the essay and ask someone to publish it, rather than asking for the assignment and then writing. This is probably why I don’t write as many essays anymore. I’m so busy with work that I know will pay that it’s hard to carve out time to take a risk on something that might not ever see the light of day.
But I’m glad I tried. I like writing essays. I think I have something to say. I’ll keep you posted…