Painting and Prose by Janet Whittle Freedman

Alexander Chee

I am reading Alexander Chee’s “How to Write an Autobiographical Novel”.  I was drawn to it because much of what I write is autobiographical and I also tend to write short pieces – his are called essays while I often call mine vignettes.

Chee’s career has included professorships at major universities as well as books, anthologies, essays, editorships and prizes, so I was surprised to read of his hesitant beginnings.  I was also startled to see how much of his experience was a match for mine and perhaps many other authors. 

In his essay “The Writing Life” Chee says that he was “amnesiac” about his early accomplishments stating that they “felt like accidents, in a life next door to mine”.  He discounted his talent, saying “I was someone who didn’t know how to find the path he was on, the one under his feet.”

I expect this may be true of other creatives. It is certainly true of me. I’ve received many positive reviews of both my writing and artwork and yet  — to be honest — at some level I too wonder whose work they might be talking about.