Waited two hours for the student dentist at UCSF, which was fine, considering how long they’ve been waiting for me; this was a long overdue visit. The good news is that my mouth is not rotting from the inside out, but I’m going to have to get my wisdom teeth yanked at some point, and they’re talking braces because one of my lower teeth is rotating in socket because the molars are pushing on everything forward.
I still don’t know what I’m writing. I’m teaching literary technique and craft, and every time I post something I feel guilty about not applying my advice to my own writing. Instead, I’ve continued the reading I started in the spring. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a great fantasy if you’re suffering institutional resentment and lack of inertia, but it hasn’t inspired me to pick up my abandoned American Indian spy novel. I’ve also been reading a lot of short fiction. I read Junot Diaz’s latest stories in the New Yorker, and I wonder how he’s able to slip the exact same story by the editors time and time again.
It’s very difficult to write from this position, and very few good books have been written because the author has needed a credential. In a more idealistic part of my life, I believed that my work should be completely divorced from trifling concerns like making a living, but I find it difficult to move on with my career without publishing, and difficult to read the Times and see reviews for books written by friends (and enemies) and not feel the pressure to produce and produce yesterday. At this point, it’s not about being a famous writer (a laughable prospect, I know); it’s about being a competent storyteller.
I’m headed home to Minnesota for a couple of weeks in August, and along with my mother and brothers, will receive my Ojibwe name from an elder. Like the going to the dentist or finishing the novel, it’s long overdue. My mother seems to believe that it will bring us closer to the community (even if I’m out of its orbit in California), that it will answer certain existential questions that we have. I hope she’s right. I think it’s significant to get a name at the end of my youth, and maybe that means something, to go forward with a new name in the old language.
Anyways, cheers to taking care of things that were supposed to be done long ago.