Discovering David Sedaris

The first time I heard the name David Sedaris – at least as far as I can remember – was in 2016 during my first semester at the University of Saskatchewan. A classmate was reading one of Sedaris‘ books at the time (I don’t remember which one) and brought it to class. He was quite enjoying it. Even then, the name ‚David Sedaris‘ sounded familiar although I couldn’t point my finger on it. What was he writing about?

Last week I finished my first Sedaris book, Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls, and it is still hard for me to narrow him down to an essence. In a way, I was right. He writes mostly (somewhat) personal essays, often with a humorist twist. To even call them essays can be a stretch though because, at times, they lack a clear cohesive thread and/or structure. Perhaps the better word for some of his pieces would be “anecdotes.”

A couple of hundred pages into his book I could imagine him standing behind somebody in line at the local grocery store, just testing the material out on random strangers in exchange for more anecdotes. They are like currency to him.

If anything, Sedaris’ writing prompts you to look for more information on him. So after I had finished the book I looked a little into his background. I needed to know why he is writing about the things he is writing about and why other people read it?

That last thought eventually lead me down a rabbit hole that I usually never descend into: Goodreads reviews. I think Goodreads is the Reddit of readers. Sure, it’s fun to rate the books and a nice (and useful) to keep track of what you’ve read and want to read, but if you are allergic to people who are stuck in high school English class I suggest you avoid the reviews, especially if you haven’t formed your own opinion.

Anyway, I went down that rabbit hole. In a moment of rare true social media satisfaction I found a number of reviews, not all of them bad, that affirmed the all-important question I was asking myself: who cares about David Sedaris Life Anecdotes? As soon as I knew that I wasn’t the only person wondering, I closed the app on my phone.

I don’t know David Sedaris personally. From all I have seen and heard and read of him he is a somewhat quirky but nice and polite person. Despite his quirkiness though, I don’t think he is a particularly important or interesting person in the grand scheme of things and I don’t think his achievements or personal history are in any way remarkable. He is pretty much just a person with a sharp eye, writing about the more interesting experiences of his life in a humorous way.

That may sound pretty negative, but I don’t mean it that way. Sedaris is a bestselling author and has sold millions of copies being and writing about, well, his corky self. He doesn’t hold power. He has no special accolades like a decorated athlete. He doesn’t lead a glamorous life like a movie star. Instead, he writes about people he meets in the airport or at book signings.  

It just goes to show you that if you’re a good writer, chances are people will read what you have to say.

As for me, I was not hooked by Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls. Don’t get me wrong: I did enjoy the book. It was an easy read. It even got a chuckle out of me here or there and I am sure that Sedaris would take this as a “Mission Accomplished” moment – as he should. But I can’t say that I want to hear more from him.

My Year in ‚Journalism‘

The past year was an interesting one for me in terms of writing. When Covid hit and my work closed down for about a month, I – like most people – didn’t know what was going to happen. Anxiety and uncertainty is usually poison to any mind, but especially for a creative one: you need to focus to create and you to be at ease to focus. Worrying about the end of civilization as we know it doesn’t really help in that regard.

But during the height of the end-of-civilization feeling I was somehow able to pick myself off the writer’s desk. I looked for some freelance work. The intention was twofold. First, a freelance gig would pay for whatever costs I had aside from rent. And second, it would get me back in the writing game.

It worked. I landed a gig with cbr.com.  A week or two after I started they announced pay cuts due to the pandemic – as if there was much to cut – and the topics I covered bore about as much resemblance to journalism as a bottle of urine does to lemonade. But hey, it got the juices flowing, no pun intended.

Well, it has been almost a year since I started writing for CBR and I have decided to close that chapter at the end of this month. There are a few reasons why. The most important is that it stopped being fun. I feel my articles have become repetitive and I am quite sure that there is a special place in hell for the Danielle Steele’s, puff piece writers, and journalistic regurgitators of this world.

Secondly, it started to feel like work. This may sound odd since, technically, it was. But I feel writing needs to be something a writer wants to do. If it turns into something a writer has to do, then it won’t come as easy and naturally. Writing becomes mechanical, forced and boring. Even worse, I believe readers can tell when that is the case.

Finally, the time I spent ‘researching’ and writing for CBR could be spent on writing fiction. Sure, I’d go back from getting guaranteed paycheques to having to submit pieces and hope for voucher copies. But money stopped being the prime motivator for my CBR work. I simply held on for the last few months because I wanted to complete an entire year with them.

For what it’s worth, CBR helped me pay for all kinds of fees related to my permanent residence application. It gave me something to add to my resumé. Most importantly though, it helped me get back into a semi-routinely writing habit. I am very grateful for all these things.

I still have three weeks to go until April. If you are interested you can click here to get to my articles on cbr.com and check out what I had to say over the past year. Don’t worry, I won’t hold a grudge against you if you don’t.

That is all the time we have, I’m afraid. Thank you for reading. I will go back to the drawing board and look what kind of topics are up for grabs for my next article. Perhaps I will even pitch an idea. If it is something really worth reading about I will let you know.

Just don’t hold your breath.