A Q&A with Toronto novelist, essayist and cultural commentator Stephen Marche
Tara, thank you again for going deep with us--and, by that, I mean sharing your heart. I am a person who writes mainly because I simply cannot stop (and, believe me, I've tried). Long ago, I decided I was unable to be a professional writer and maintain a state of emotional health. When I tried working as a journalist, in the early 1980's, my heart dried up and I developed the worst case of writer's block (and depression) that you can imagine. I walked away from writing then, thinking that I was done (becoming a radio disc jockey, instead), but then the Urge to Write returned in a way that I couldn't ignore. Finally, I couldn't resist "the flow" any longer; however, I never tried to make money off of my writing ever again. After all these years, I now realize that my writing serves as a link between my mind and the essence of my soul, and I guess I don't want to do anything that might sever such an important link.
As for my Substack subscriptions, I look for people who are reporting on what the Legacy Media no longer reports upon. I want Substack writers who are exceptionally curious, who are fueled by a love of learning, and who purposely search for folks to interview who have a completely different take on the world. I am thrilled when someone presents me with a new way of perceiving, most especially when it's a new way of examining one of our world's many problems.
Tara, thank you for keeping my mind open to new people and to new ideas. Because of you, I'm currently attempting to build up enough courage to listen to some HipHop music, and that's simply because you seem to love it so much--ha!ha! : )
An interesting comment:
“Toronto is a good city to mind your own business in.” It’s a good thing as well as a bad thing. Nothing is ever special, and everyone is the same. It has to do with the Garrison mentality, and socialism, and the pursuit of equality. Those are all very good things. They just don’t make it very fun to be a writer. It’s like, “You can be a writer, but you can’t be special. You can’t be good at it.” That’s sort of how I think CanLit works. Or doesn’t work, really.
Those are good things, they just make life meaningless. Interesting how we determine things to be good.
"What I love about writing is the feeling of learning. To me, the kind of writing that I really like is the one where you’re learning along with the writer at the same time. " To me, this says a lot. Nice perspective. Thanks, Tara, for hosting Mr. Marche.
'let life be easy in the moments that it doesn’t have to be hard.' That's an awesome thought. Not as easy as it sounds. Peace and contentment are easy concepts to understand, but hard to attain. Sometimes I don't think we humans are built for it.
The pen, indeed, is mightier than the sword. This was a timely reminder of that, and there's no doubt that it was only because of Substack, that I was made aware of this unbelievably powerful story about Boris Pasternak https://open.substack.com/pub/bariweiss/p/introducing-a-sunday-series-from?r=ilfha&utm_campaign=post&utm_medium=web Writing the truth is important from ANY medium, as long as we continue to acknowledge that we are doing so on the shoulders of giants that have already come before us.
It's very much like being a freelance musician. When I decided on this career fifty years ago, it was a reasonable decision. Now the economics are laughable (one must maintain a sense of humour). I continue to write and perform music because I must.
Thank you, both Tara and Stephen.
I would really appreciate being able to pull this quote: "As I said, my definition of a good essay is one where you learned that you’re mistaken. Because that’s what life is. You have assumptions, and then they’re stripped away, and you realize that you didn’t know what you were talking about, and you learn something. And then you are changed by learning about something in the world"...
To share with my Unschool of Writing readers, in my March 1 newsletter.. May I? With a link to the piece as a whole, and credit.
Enjoy New Orleans, and thank you for the words of encouragement. I so wonder a times, why I do this. I appreciate the reminder to push at this Substack thing even as I appreciate its role in my current life, too.
When J.D. Salinger (Catcher in the Rye) was in training as a writer ( see the movie, every writer should) his professor asked him a very pointed question: Would you write if you were never published and nobody ever read your stuff? A question every writer should ask themselves.
Salinger went on to be a best selling writer with several books to his credit. One day he walked into his publisher, at quite an early age, and announced he was no longer interested in publishing . He went back to the seclusion of his farm and spent the rest of life writing for himself.
My formal training is in the visual arts which I practiced for many years before switching to writing . That is when I learned of the powerful kinship between the visual and literary arts. Playing with clay or words is equally satisfying.
I have been writing and blogging now for decades. If it weren't for my still working wife and my pensions I'd be on the corner with a tin cup.
I look upon art and writing as wholesome addictions, not to be denied.