After the book came out I realized that year by year I just forget more and more of it. I don’t really consult the book for fun, but there are so many details that when I’m asked to read from it, I think, holy crap, how did I manage to hold these memories for so long, and how and why did my brain decide — it seemed to decide so immediately and so thoroughly to just let it all go. That language sounds vaguely therapeutic, so it makes me somewhat nervous, but that really does just always follow from the experience of creating a piece of writing for me.
ES: It’s interesting to hear you say that talking in therapeutic terms makes you nervous. Do you think it’s a derogatory way to talk about writing?
SM: Well, it’s a derogatory way to talk about writing because I think the understanding of therapy is that it’s this really rough process, and I think the popular understanding of producing published writing considers it like a process of perfection, or, attempted perfection. You can’t have this primal scream therapy without it just being a mess, and I’m not interested in producing a mess.
I adhere to this old fashioned idea that I can, as Gary Lutz says, produce sentences that I can’t improve further. That’s not a direct quote, but it’s a wonderful sentence. It’s not really a problem with the word “therapy,” it’s a problem with the general understanding of the word “therapy” that makes me somewhat nervous. Because when I say, “writing is therapeutic,” it suddenly just dredges up the idea of a diary or a journal in which one writes a first draft and then consults it no more. It’s just sort of this raw, raw thing. I understand it can be therapeutic but for me the process is producing the most accurate and the most precise, logical piece of writing — that for me is much more therapeutic than just scrawling a bunch of first draft-y stuff.