Think about Sex and the City. I’m talking about the original, not the And Just Like That reboot. If HBO’s mega-hit is to be believed, the life of a writer is seldom anything but charmed. Sure, there are breakups and fights with friends and novel ideas that never come to fruition, but there are also extravagant parties, walk-in closets and gargantuan book advances.
In her first foray into nonfiction, I Came All This Way to Meet You: Writing Myself Home, writer Jami Attenberg makes it abundantly clear that Carrie Bradshaw is the exception to the rule.
In this memoir-in-essays, the acclaimed novelist of All Grown Up and All This Could Be Yours elaborates on what it means for someone who was “born to be a writer” to see that goal through, and how expectations rarely align with reality.
Having grown up with a traveling salesman father, Attenberg knew early on that she preferred a nomadic lifestyle to settling down (she was 45 before owning a bed frame). She happily refuses many of the trappings of stereotypical womanhood, admitting that while she never wanted a husband or children, she is envious of the full refrigerator that often accompanies those things. Neither is she a literary wunderkind. It wasn’t until 2014’s The Middlesteins that she became, in her words, “a newly moderately successful writer.”
Despite being subtitled “writing my way home,” I Came All This Way to Meet You doesn’t so much get into the nitty gritty of Attenberg’s process as a writer (some of her books aren’t even referred to by name, just in passing). Still, she’s candid about her chosen career path’s ups, downs and requirements for unceasing hustle. Still, as many creatives will attest, Attenberg admits she has no choice but to write, even if success feels ephemeral. “I believe that one must arrive at an intersection of hunger and fear to make great art. Hunger to succeed and create something brilliant and special and affecting. Fear that your life will remain just as it is—or worse—forever,” she posits.
Early in the book, Attenberg mentions her adoration of Patti Smith’s Just Kids. And, though it’s missing some of the grittiness of that memoir, I Came All This Way to Meet You does wind up occupying a Smith-esque space: a manifesto and guidebook for those compelled to create.