I haven’t been in your inbox much lately. Funny — my last letter was about writer’s block, but I haven’t been down with that. I was low on energy and busy with the world, but I also had focus these past few months, and a sharp desire to write. I’m not saying what came out was always top notch, but I did reach some sort of zone in the past few months where I could leave the question of what is good alone, at least while I was drafting. Sometimes even after. Imagine that.
Wonderful and evocative as ever, Irina. I have wondered at times, too, about the gendering of effort. With apologies for thinking in such binary terms (but these were the terms of my youth), and I don't know if I'd have enough cases to be sure it wasn't a coincidence, but it seemed to me that boys/ young men I grew up around were celebrated for dedicated effort, for trying a new thing, guitar, a new sport, for being in the process of becoming something, and girls for *being* something, i.e., pretty, talented, smart. The exception was in sports, with the obvious need for regular practice with the team. The implicit idea was--and it could've been just my limited interpretation as a young person, combined with immigrant realities, as you say--that it was embarrassing to try because it meant you weren't already TALENTED (also read: good, valuable, worthy of love), which was innate and not a thing that could be trained. That idea messed me up for a long time, and your first essay on ballet (that I read) several years ago was one of the things that helped me rethink it.
I’m so happy to be able to read your work again! And I love what you have to say about writing, as always.
Minunată explicație și piruetă în jurul verbului 'a se screme'!
Sometimes I read your work and have to stop and remind myself that it's not me you are talking about (but there are so many similarities, the Romanian heritage, the immigrant emotions, even the ballet). A pleasure to read you, however infrequently!
I just found you here on Substack today, but really enjoy your writing and insights. Thanks for being so honest and open. This whole piece feels almost like a push into Zen. I know this probably doesn't make a whole lot of sense (my mind goes down rabbit holes sometimes), but it reminded me of a movie called "The Tao of Steve." I think it's worth a watch, even though it may sort of be a "guy movie." It's worth a few laughs if nothing else. Anyways, keep up the great writing!
I do not remember when or how I subscribed the newsletter but some of your articles are dropping into my mailbox. I'm not complaining about this and actually I like the artlcles that some of your articles really resonates with me which is really rare. Especially the one about new years personal goals. Because I also like to keep the scores of what have I accomplished and what more I can accomplish in the next year.
And this one is also a really good one. For the last few years I try so hard to accomplish something. A side job but since I have limited time I cannot advanced in that as much as I want. I tried to integrate many things to increase the progress (from related listening e-books on commute time to get up two hours before work).
But in the end, this article helps to enlighten me where I'm in. "A se screme" is the state I'm in right now and I'm not really sure writing on bus ticket will help. However now I know that I needed to look from another angle to solve this.
Thanks for these articles and please continue creating more of these.
This reminds me a bit of the Renaissance concept of "sprezzatura": you were supposed to show off your skill, but not seem laboured while doing so (or tell people how hard you've worked at it!) - a bit like what we'd call "coolness" today... not quite what you're getting at, but popped to mind!
Beautiful read, thanks! Made me think of how I "suddenly understood everything" after 2 years of tons of effort into learning Persian (my dad's language which he neglected teaching me as a kid). It was an incredible slog and I was completly blocked (emotionally, I mean). I can't say I felt much ease in slaving away, but I do remember that moment when my ears suddenly unclogged and I just got everything they were saying on a podcast. It felt like things were just flowing into my ear without me trying at all. All the channels were just open, felt like I didn't consciously make any attempt. Although this moment of not-trying (daoist, almost) came after trying a LOT for many months... What a curious magical thing when it "ALL COHERES" as T.S. Eliot says in his Greek tragedy play...
Also, what you’re describing sounds a lot to me like “play.” Which we often, I think, get schooled and worked out of doing. I once had an academic colleague disparage Kurt Vonnegut as “a humorist.” And in that description, I caught the whiff of a judgment that Vonnegut seemed at times to be having too much fun. I say there’s no such thing, as long your being present and real. And full disclosure, I struggled with pirouettes too.
I wonder if this applies to other kinds of work too. (Partly because I'm reading this while lying on the couch absolutely knackered by a long, hard week at work).
But great reading nonetheless, and I always love the ballet tidbits when they make it into essays. ❤️❤️❤️
I don't want to be mediocre, this is the fear of my soul and my body.
Being in the same time sloppy/negligent and on the other hand focused on details and experiencing a soothing will to do things well sounds contradictory, confusing but it’s worth trying. I think both can offer satisfaction.
Your way of describing these emotions makes it interesting.