Reflections on healing trauma, writing, and books by Tokyo-based memoirist
Looking For The Balance Between Roxane Gay and Elizabeth Gilbert

Looking For The Balance Between Roxane Gay and Elizabeth Gilbert

A few days ago, I thought I would take care of myself and come back here all refreshed and ready to talk about how I got my life together. That hasn’t happened.

I went back to my old standbys. I listened to Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, again. I looked up some interviews with Roxane Gay. I even re-read The Getaway Car by Ann Patchett.

That last one was because I’d listened to David Sedaris’ latest book, The Best of Me, and at the end of the audiobook, there was an interview with him. The interviewer asked him about writing advice, and he said that the best writing advice he’d ever read was Ann Patchett’s The Getaway Car. According to him, everything any aspiring writer needs to know is in there.

I increased my meditation, took a hot bath, and re-dedicated myself to practicing the Wim Hof Method.

Big Magic almost always works for me because it’s mostly about detaching art from physical reality. She advises us not to burden our creativity with the practicalities of life. That mostly works for me. I’m good at separating my mind from my environment. Maybe I’m even a little too good at it.

The one thing that gives me pause in Big Magic is that Gilbert tells us that the life of an artist is a difficult one, but her advice is to suck it up. Don’t be a baby. And, yeah, there have been plenty of times in my life when I’ve needed to hear that.

There have also been times in my life when that advice has seemed cruel. This is where Roxane Gay comes in.

Generally speaking, you’d have to be crazy to say that Roxane Gay’s personality is warmer than Elizabeth Gilbert’s. I’ve heard Roxane Gay say publicly, more than once, that she will not hug you. It does not matter how much you connect with her writing. You’re not getting a hug from Roxane. Fair enough, but with Elizabeth Gilbert, you get the impression that she’d let you sleep in her bed if you asked right.

So, it’s a little weird how when I get the, “Don’t be a baby,” treatment from “Auntie Liz,” I go running to Dr. Gay, who has said in an interview, “People do tend to turn to me, but I turn them right back around.” (This was in reference to our cultural tendency to look to black women to “mammy” us.)

However, I’ve also seen her tweet to her followers that if anyone needed an extra $100 to keep their lights on or make their rent, that she would send it to them.

Roxane Gay speaks and writes with such precision, that I feel like everything she says has been put together with an Exacto knife. She talks about how social injustices need to change. There is no shrugging acceptance that life is hard followed by the admonition to stop being a baby about it. Instead, she acknowledges that life is harder for some people than it is for others and that we should do something to change that.

Somehow, the dichotomy between these two women usually brings me into balance. This time, it didn’t seem to work so well.

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