Writers on Writing #116: Jennifer Wortman
In The Style Of
1. Sometimes at night I wake up without knowing I woke up. When I wake up not knowing I woke up, I will soon know sleep. But if I wake up knowing I woke up, I will worry about my awakeness, which will then keep me awake.
2. A person writing in the style of Lydia Davis does not become Lydia Davis. Perhaps her style bears the influence of Lydia Davis’s style, or perhaps her style happens to coincide with it. Perhaps her style, while bearing the influence of Lydia Davis’s style or happening to coincide with it, also bears the influence of and happens to coincide with other styles. Perhaps her style, in certain ways, is distinct from the style of Lydia Davis and other styles. But if her style bears the influence of or happens to coincide with no other styles, if it is solely in the style of Lydia Davis, it still is not the writing of Lydia Davis. And yet, it cannot be said that the writing of the writer writing solely in the style of Lydia Davis is the writer’s own. If her writing is not her own, and it is not Lydia Davis’s, then whose writing is it? Who is writing?
3. Sometimes at night I wake up worrying about who I am not. For instance, why am I not Lydia Davis? Why do I spend years writing stories that no one wants to publish? Why does no one want to publish my stories? Is it because I’m not Lydia Davis or because I’m the kind of person who lies in bed wondering why I’m not Lydia Davis, rather than rising from bed to write? Why do I still think my life would be better if I were someone else? If I were someone else, would I know it? Or would I think I was myself and want to be like someone else? Maybe I’d want to be someone who spends years writing stories that no one wants to publish. Maybe I’d want only to write and not care about the rest. Is that the other self I should want to be? Or should I want to stay as I am, someone who spends years writing stories that no one wants to publish and therefore wants to be someone else? Could this wanting be a blessing? Without this wanting, would I lie awake worrying about only my awakeness, which would then forever keep me awake?
Jennifer Wortman's work has been or will be published in The Normal School, North American Review, Confrontation, Massachusetts Review, PANK, Columbia Journal, DIAGRAM, River Teeth's Beautiful Things, and elsewhere. She is an associate fiction editor for Colorado Review and an instructor at Lighthouse Writers Workshop in Denver.