Below is my dear friend Milcah Orbacedo talking about her mission in the world. We were at Thai Peacock for lunch, eating Papaya Salad, and she was saying interesting things so I taped her.
Book Talk: Your essays are also extremely personal, and there’s a lot of talk out there that says, you know, memoir-type writing is selfish writing, or too self-serving. What do you have to say in response to those kinds of critiques? And, why is writing about yourself a good thing?
Caldwell: I feel that we live briefly on earth, and should make whatever kind of art we want. Nothing kills a good idea for an essay by the self-doubt of but does this matter? Do I matter? Who would care about this experience anyway? I’m so narcissistic, so lame.
I have way too many friends that let that voice win out, and it actually kind of breaks my heart. If it’s important to you, then it’s important. It’s not narcissism that drives nonfiction writers, it’s transcendence of the self for sake of connection with the reader.
I don’t believe in selfish writing. I’m very un-grounded when I don’t write and I act out my emotions instead of putting them to the page. If you’re anything like that, then writing is not selfish. It keeps you sane. Do you know how many worse things people could be doing than writing? They could be stealing or snorting drugs or killing people. Writing is a good thing for anyone who does it, no matter what or why they write. It makes me sad that writing gets all these bad names like “masturbatory.” I say, let the people write. It’s good for the soul.