If, as a student, you read a famous essayist’s work, and it is immediately accessible and seems like something you might be able to write yourself, it’s galvanizing. Constraints are great for art. So are deadlines. But even better is to legitimately say to yourself, “Really? That’s a great essay? Well, shit, I can do that.”
Clarice Lispector once wrote, “I’m not a synonym—I’m a proper noun.” Like many of her oblique declaratives, the meaning resonates if you are inclined to hear it. Yet even to those who do, what they hear differs widely. Perhaps even more maddening, it is subject to change when it is heard again. Lispector as haughy and indignant. Lispector, tall, set apart from the crowd. Lispector, a singular thing.