When I think about identity I think about aesthetic and taste. At some point in a writer’s young life she reads something that resembles a waterfall. She says, I want to do that. Or, if she’s already been doing it, she says, I am not alone; I have permission. And that’s fine and good. She walks the trail. Eventually she meets someone who insists, That’s not a waterfall.
When I was in college all I really wanted to read was Charles Bukowski and John Fante, plus some beat poetry, along with certain plays by Sam Shepard. I’d learned at an early age to be dismissive of other people. I was a history major and when, in my junior year, I started meeting creative writing majors they looked at what I was looking at, shook their heads dismissively, and said, That’s not a waterfall. So I looked at what they were looking at, Which was first and foremost Raymond Carver (I went to the University of Illinois from 1990 to 1994). I laughed at them congregating in front of the English building and said, That’s not a waterfall, that’s not even a puddle. That’s a pile of shit.
Six or seven years later I only wanted to read Raymond Carver. It turns out there was no waterfall. The moral of this story is don’t pay attention to anyone that laughs at your taste. Even if you listen to Nickleback."