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This blog was featured on 05/10/2018
Sloane Crosley on Trailblazing a Crooked Path
Written by
She Writes
May 2018
Written by
She Writes
May 2018

New York Times best-selling author Sloane Crosley has played a major role in the surge of essayists that we see today. Her first collection of essays, I Was Told There’d Be Cake, was released almost 10 years ago and had people talking about it immediately. Her raw and hilarious look at her adventures in Manhattan delighted readers from page one.

Her follow up essay projects have included Up the Down Volcano and How Did You Get This Number. Crosley penned a novel, The Clasp, in 2015 but has returned to essays again with her latest collection, Look Alive Out There. As with her first collection, the stories within the pages are enveloped with her trademark wit, taking sometimes uncomfortable topics and making them relatable, heartwarming and hilarious.

Take a look at this powerful writer’s career arch and use it to both shape your goals and get comfortable with change.

You Don’t Always Have to Do What Has Always Been Done

In an interview with Fashion Magazine, Crosley shared her feelings about the evolution of personal essays since entering the genre ten years ago.

“The landscape for personal essays, specifically comedy written by women, has changed a lot. Without sounding too grandiose about it, I didn’t have a lot of company when I first published I Was Told There’d Be Cake. Now I do, and it’s great. It’s important for women to tell their stories.”

Her resolve to continue to work at what she was passionate about, and what she was good at, paid off in the end and even resulted in her being able to be a trailblazer of sorts.

Don’t be Afraid to Veer Off the Path From Time to Time

During a conversation with Interview Magazine, Crosley was asked about the kind of writer she wanted to be when she first started out. Her switch from essayist to novelist threw some people for a loop.

“I wanted to be an archaeologist. But in school you have to take a tremendous amount of statistics for that, and I am not good at statistics. So I hit a real wall with archaeology. It’s probably like wanting to be an architect—you think it’s all fun and games, and then you have to get out a calculator and you’re done.”

We all have certain expectations when we set out to write something, an idea of how we want it to look like or how it should feel. When you get into the process it may morph into something else, and that doesn’t have to be negative.

Deliver on Your Promises

The process of writing a book means different things to everyone. For some that means leaving a little bit of yourself on each page. When she spoke to Matador Review, Crosley shared her thoughts on her responsibility when she writes.

“There are only X number of books that get published every year and even fewer that get published by great publishing houses. If you're lucky enough to find yourself in that club, I think you have an obligation to leave blood on the field. You have to make good on the promises of your genre at the very least. So if a novelist promises a "vivid" historical novel about 1920s Oklahoma, I want to feel the specificity of that. If a narrative nonfiction writer promises a viewpoint and new insight and laughs and dark thoughts laid bare, those better be in there. The value is in the reading experience. For me, I get value as I'm writing these things; I get to articulate what I'm thinking. But I don't get much value after. I love when people read my books. All I think about is producing the best piece of writing I can on a subject. But I should clarify—I don't mean that in order to write well, you have to spill your guts. That's a contemporary misconception. I mean that in order to write well you have to find your truth and spill that.”

Sometimes the need to be unique or liked can pull writers away from honesty and their obligation to the reader. Make sure you are meeting expectations by giving your audience what they were promised.

You Can Always Come Home Again

While Crosley took a break from her witty essays to create her novel, The Clasp, her return to her roots as it were with Look Alive Out There feels like home as she noted in her Entertainment Weekly interview.

“I was working on fiction for so long, and that was so freeing in some ways,” she explains. “Like, ‘Oh good, I get to make everything up!’ But then it’s sort of horrifying in other ways, where you’re like, ‘Oh God… I have to make everything up. I’m responsible for everything.'”

Whatever your genre of choice is, you don’t have to married to that for life. If you feel compelled to venture a little outside of the box and see how it goes, knowing that you always have a comfortable place to return to. Exploring new writing spaces offers a ton of growth even if it doesn’t result in overwhelming success.

(Image courtesy of SloaneCrosley.com)

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