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An advance obit seems practically to guarantee its subject eternal life.

Subjects can live so long, in fact, that they survive the writer. When that happens, if the byline is celebrated enough — and the writing too good to consign to the dustbin — our editors may decide to publish the obit, as if from beyond the grave, once its subject has joined its author.

Margalit Fox, The New York Times
In this culture, essays are often written for the sake of writing the essay. Someone finds a quibble of potential interest and quibbles about it. This doesn’t mean the writer isn’t capable of doing something of greater interest, but we generate a lot of prose that’s not vital. The best essays come from the moment in which people really need to work something out.
Marilynne Robinson, The Art of Reading
As harsh as it sounds, that was not why I wrote it. I wrote it because, as I said, I was dealing with all these questions of memory and democracy, and what does that mean. I feel better because I know now. Like, I know. Now, I feel like I’ve solved a problem, I understand something about the world that I didn’t understand before. And that’s why I wrote it. … My role is to answer questions. It doesn’t mean I shouldn’t have opinions.
Ta-Nehisi Coates, relaying a crucial difference between writing about policy and being an activist — which also happens to be the one everyone forgets. From the Longform podcast, which you should listen to. 

You need to build an ability to just be yourself and not be doing something. That’s what the phones are taking away, is the ability to just sit there. That’s being a person. Because underneath everything in your life there is that thing, that empty—forever empty. That knowledge that it’s all for nothing and that you’re alone. It’s down there.

And sometimes when things clear away, you’re not watching anything, you’re in your car, and you start going, ‘oh no, here it comes. That I’m alone.’ It’s starts to visit on you. Just this sadness. Life is tremendously sad, just by being in it…

That’s why we text and drive. I look around, pretty much 100 percent of the people driving are texting. And they’re killing, everybody’s murdering each other with their cars. But people are willing to risk taking a life and ruining their own because they don’t want to be alone for a second because it’s so hard.

Louis C.K.

I love this description of “The American Man, Age 10.”

In 1992, Susan Orlean profiled 10-year-old Colin Duffy for Esquire magazine. Her story, “The American Man, Age 10,” is the product of a great deal of trust and collaboration between reporter and subject. Orlean doesn’t waste words describing her conversations with Colin. Rather, her sentences are richly layered with the products of those conversations. “If Colin Duffy and I were to get married, we would have matching superhero notebooks,” writes Orlean. She continues:

“We would eat pizza and candy for all of our meals. We wouldn’t have sex, but we would have crushes on each other and, magically, babies would appear in our home. We would win the lottery and then buy land in Wyoming, where we would have one of every kind of cute animal.”

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