3 min read

Your Essay Isn't a Soliloquy

I dunno who framed Roger Rabbit but maybe you should frame your essays.

If you're having a hard time talking about what you really need to talk about, you can talk about something else instead. Both our art and our emotions are in conversation with the art and emotions of other.

Hanif Abdurraqib (a writer whose range and output I am deeply jealous of) was having a hard time processing the grief around losing his mother so he wrote about Future's stifled emotions,

The reason Dirty Sprite 2 is such a brilliant breakup record is that it doesn’t directly confront the failing of a relationship, but intimately details the movements of what that failure turned an artist into. It is misery as I have most frequently seen black men experiencing their misery, not discussed, pushed into a lens of what will drown it out with the most ferocity. Future, in a year, watched a woman he loved leave him with their child, and then find public joy with someone else, while he wallowed, occasionally tweeting out a small bitter frustration about the newfound distance. There are as many ways to be heartbroken as there are hearts, and it is undeniable that it is exceptionally difficult to be both public-facing and sad. Future’s golden run was born out of a desire to bury himself. Rather, a desire to be both seen and unseen.

By mapping his emotions to pop culture, Abdurraqib finds a method for unpacking a grief he has no words for.

In Joyas Voladoras, Brian Doyle opens his meditation about life and loss with hummingbirds,

Consider the hummingbird for a long moment. A hummingbird’s heart beats ten times a second. A hummingbird’s heart is the size of a pencil eraser. A hummingbird’s heart is a lot of the hummingbird. Joyas voladoras, flying jewels, the first white explorers in the Americas called them, and the white men had never seen such creatures, for hummingbirds came into the world only in the Americas, nowhere else in the universe, more than three hundred species of them whirring and zooming and nectaring in hummer time zones nine times removed from ours, their hearts hammering faster than we could clearly hear if we pressed our elephantine ears to their infinitesimal chests.

Sometimes, a personal essay is just a massive metaphor.

But how do you find a frame that works for you?

If you have a favor artist, you can spend some time considering why their work resonates with you. Where are the parallels between your life and theirs?

Or, you might find that you've been super drawn to a particular thing lately. Maybe you're hella fixated on mushrooms and then you do a deep and there's a tidbit that's really sticking with... Again, seek out the parallels. What's the larger meaning of the mushroom kingdom to your life overall?

You can even make a writing exercise out of it, "In five paragraphs or less, I'm going to draw a parallel between seahorses and my childhood crush."

On Lifehacker, I read a few tips on what you can do with the nearly empty condiment jars in  your fridge. I'm def going to experiment with shaking up booze in jam jars.

It's summer, so here's my annual reminder that you should buy some thigh glide. There's a lot of different brands, but I use the cheapie Gold Bond stick that's basically my only reason for ever having to go to Wal-Mart. I generally use a stick and a half every summer.

You smear it on between your thighs and it helps prevent chafing. On super hot sweaty, walk heavy days, you might need to re-apply or probably will still want a more robust option like biker shorts, but for everyday general use and just wanting to be cute in a sundress while running errands, this is for you.

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