“I’d finally been able to give it because I’d let go of all the grandiose ideas I’d once had about myself and my writing—so talented! so young! I’d stopped being grandiose. I’d lowered myself to the notion that the absolute only thing that mattered was getting that extra beating heart out of my chest. Which meant I had to write my book. My very possibly mediocre book. My very possibly never-going-to-be-published book. My absolutely no-where-in-league-with-the-writers-I’d-admired-so-much-that-I-practically-memorized-their-sentences book. It was only then, when I humbly surrendered, that I was able to do the work I needed to do.
I hope you’ll think hard about that, honey bun…The most fascinating thing to me about your letter is that buried beneath all the anxiety and sorrow and fear and self-loathing, there’s arrogance at its core. It presumes you should be successful at 26, when really it takes most writers so much longer to get there…You loathe yourself, and yet you’re consumed by the grandiose ideas you have about your own importance. You’re up too high and down too low. Neither is the place where we get any work done.
We get the work done on the ground level. And the kindest thing I can do for you is to tell you to get your ass on the floor.”
--Dear Sugar, Advice Column #48
Sugar—the once-anonymous online columnist at The Rumpus, now revealed as Cheryl Strayed, author of the best selling memoir Wild—is the person thousands turn to for advice. In conversation with Paul Holdengräber, Strayed will discuss her anonymous advice column, as well as Wild, the story of an eleven-hundred-mile solo hike that broke down a young woman reeling from catastrophe, and built her back up again.
CHERYL STRAYED is the author of the critically acclaimed novel Torch and memoir Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. She has been writing The Rumpus’s “Dear Sugar” column since March of 2010, and her most recent book is a collection of those pieces, entitled Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar. Her stories and essays have been published in The New York Times Magazine,The Washington Post Magazine, Allure, The Rumpus, The Missouri Review, The Sun, The Best American Essays, and elsewhere. She lives in Portland, Oregon.