Wondrous: An Evening with Junot Diaz
There's something fascinating about celebrity.
A month ago, I met celebrated author Junot Diaz. I was quickly struck by what a sharp, opinionated man he was. I had heard the stories. I knew that the public conceived of him as a quiet, introverted man and I knew not to expect a bombastic stagemonger. The man in person was something I can hardly put into words.
A famous person - for all their inward normality - is difficult to place on the same plane of life as a "normal" person. Everything around a celebrity feels somehow elevated, as if the acknowledgment of the exalted person makes events more legitimate or more tangible. Events around a celebrity are certainly more likely to be recorded.
Because of this, I was startled by Diaz's normalcy. Thinking back to his words, Diaz merely said what perhaps a dozen other writers in my life had said (though perhaps with just a bit more confidence in his own ability). His concepts: 'Write Hardest through the Hard Times' and 'Take Emotions from your Own Life', rang bewilderingly familiar. It was strange to hear this man, a man celebrated for achievement in a creative art, retreading ideas I was taught in middle school.
Even still, enough about the night was interesting. Diaz has a penetrating - if not engaging - wit, and spoke pointedly about certain topics. On revision, in particular, the scenarios he described made the night worthwhile. Diaz said that he has worked hard to accumulate a circle of friends - a special type of friend that knows he/she can be critical - to inform him if his "shit is whack." If even ten percent of each draft works, he says, he sees it as a surprise and an accomplishment.
More than anything, the night with Junot Diaz reminded me that merely sitting in the presence of greatness does not make one great. However much I love the Great American Novel, I am no closer to writing one. As Diaz said, it is up to the writer to persevere, and that can come only from within.