‘You Are More Than Your Writing.’

On July 31, 2022, The Reading will go on a long hiatus.

‘You Are More Than Your Writing.’
[Photo by Yanyi: You look closely upon a shaded branch of ripening blueberries in a bush at midday, a tree and the sky faintly visible in the background.]

The Reading is going on hiatus on July 31, 2022. — Paid memberships will be paused. — Why this is happening. — A last piece of advice. — Near and possible futures.

On July 31, 2022, The Reading will go on a long hiatus. All letters, Writing Space sessions, and Hotpot session will cease. All paid memberships as of that date will be paused and resumed only in the event of my return with a paid tier. All posts will remain up. Paid posts will remain visible to anyone with a paid membership. The last Writing Space will be on July 26, 2022. At the moment, no return date is set.

This has been such a difficult decision that I’ve put it off for almost a year. I don’t ever doubt that these letters have been of incredible value to you. In fact, the undeniable impact of every letter to you and others, be it in comfort, practicality, or renewal, have kept me going every month I thought I would make this announcement. That, too, has changed. For the past several months, new submissions to the letterbox have slowed to a trickle. That in itself has felt like a message about the want, and need, for this form of The Reading.

It is okay for things to end. Sometimes they don’t, but I do believe that everything, even the good things, deserve a chance to end. You might know what I mean. Because there is no end built in, podcasts, television shows, and newsletters are so easy to keep doing despite flags that sign otherwise, losing much of what made them special in the first place.

There are very few places where artists are not asked to perform to prove the worthiness of our lives. Many of the viable options for financial sustainability still require performance in applications for grants, authority for students, expertise for other faculty, profundity for literary events, and constancy for social media followings. Even writers’ residencies, which are intended for producing new work, require projects to be described and samples to be offered. Everywhere, all at once, the label of artist rests in the existing work, not the person who is trying to make it.

What is the end of all this performance? And why are we writers obsessed with having time even more than having money? Perhaps the point is to avoid the end—the making in the present itself. Perhaps I feel that when I prove myself an artist, I can be worthy of having my own time. The time to luxuriate in process; to read what I want; to write badly until it is interesting—not competent, not even good, but something else. Something like a world I want to stay in. Something beyond myself now.

In many of these letters, I’ve been challenged to offer not only you but also myself new ways of approaching the travails of the writing life. I have taught the epiphanies I had just had, hot off the press, induced in part thanks to the letters you have sent me. To get to the end of a performance, to stop waiting for permission from the ghosts who never let me stop, I must stop performing. It seems appropriate, then, that this last piece of advice be an act, not a letter.

I won’t completely disappear. I’ll pop into social media. I will update this newsletter with brief announcements from time to time. I do hope, one day, to make this run of The Reading a book—a friend—that you can hold in your hands. In the near future, I plan to offer more critical, writing-adjacent classes like Foundations of Asian American Studies with Ida Yalzadeh, which started this week with a teary and resonant bang.

I’m going to take some time to figure out what’s next—perhaps there will be more voices and, one day, a new, limited column. But for now, I’m going to honor my ‘no.’ I have written 51 letters, 21 postscripts, and 58 short craft thoughts to tell you, really, one thing: you are more than your writing. Now, as ever, on with the work.