Have just begun The Word Pretty, Elisa Gabbert's newest collection of essays. I can't remember who or what put me on to it—someone mentioned it in a podcast, maybe? I dunno—nor do I remember when I bought it, though that had to be recently. Whatever the story, I'm taken with the first entry, "Personal Data: Notes on Keeping a Notebook," and if the rest of the book is as good, be forewarned, I'll be writing more about it here.
The first paragraph of "Personal Data," and thus the book's opening paragraph:
Writers’ habit don’t just emerge, we cultivate them—it’s first aspirational, then superstitious. Years ago, in graduate school, I noticed how certain poet friends would casually, but with intent, remove a small notebook from their jacket pocket or bag and jot something down. I noticed it the way you notice how someone smokes—the glamor in the gesture, and how it isn’t personal but referential; it aligns one with a tradition. I started keeping notebooks so I could be a writer who keeps a notebook.
That seems sharply observed to me, wry and true. I also like this bit, from the same first page (the book starts strong), which makes me want to meet Gabbert's mother:
… When I was seven or eight, I confessed to my mother that I couldn’t stop narrating my life back to myself; I thought it meant I was crazy. No, she said, it means you’re a writer.
In a subsequent essay, Gabbert notes that her mother has a recurring dream of flunking a sociology class. Definitely want to meet her.
Elisa Gabbert's site lives here.