Once I sold Amway. That’s the sort of confession I generally save for those party games where you’re supposed to reveal something you usually keep to yourself, something that no one would ever guess about you, something that reaches partway but not completely into your stash of embarrassing self-knowledge. I like to think that as a writer I have a pretty big stash, and that I’m not overly ashamed about rummaging through it. But maybe that’s an illusion, the sort of thing we talk ourselves into because it goes with our turf.

David Vann got me thinking about Amway. Partly it was what he said in yesterday’s post about engagement being more satisfying than leisure, which has no small connection, I think, with the rogue sheep Lappie. But also it’s his book A Mile Down, which I just finished with that mix of satisfaction and sadness that happens whenever something good comes to an end. In this case, gratitude was part of the mix – gratitude for this meeting place of writers, without which it might have taken me a long time to meet David Vann and his good work.

Of course A Mile Down is not about Amway. As the subtitle aptly notes, it’s “the true story of a disastrous career at sea.” But as anyone who’s had a brush with networking marketing knows, Amway is not really about soap. It’s about dreams. Which would make another apt subtitle for David’s book, although the original is surely much better from a marketing standpoint.

We’re funny about dreams. Some people pine for them with a wistfulness that becomes it own satisfaction. Some labor long and hard at work they don’t love, dreaming of leisure, only to learn David’s lesson too late. Maybe in the end it’s a combination of age and disastrous misadventures, not necessarily at sea, that swings us back around to the obvious: doing what you love is its own satisfaction.

I thought of this all in the context of a very nice review of my new book in Sunday’s Fairbanks News Miner. The nicest thing about the review is that it discusses the book in a thoughtful and meaningful way that helps readers figure out if it’s something they’d like to read. In short, it’s a real review, and as we all know real reviews are an increasingly scarce commodity, especially in Alaska. But it’s also the first review that said much about my career as an author, my body of work, if you will, which sound ridiculously pretentious. “Deb Vanasse has published a fairly impressive number of books during her 30 years in Alaska” – that’s the opening line.

What I found interesting was how reading that opening affected me, which is to say not much. When I first got serious about writing, I longed for day when someone would offer that kind of “proof” that I’d made it. But from where I sit now, it’s more of a shrug, an acknowledgement, a reminder to be grateful for all that has fallen my way, and then getting back to work on my latest project. Because the joy is not in someone affirming we’ve made it. The joy is in the making.

4 thoughts on “Satisfaction”

  1. Thanks for the kind comments, Deb. And great post. You’re far more eloquent on the subject of dreams and satisfaction than I am. I agree entirely with everything you’ve said. I still get caught up constantly in dreams, in new imaginations of different futures. My wife and I make a pastime of it. I should mention, also, that my uncle sold AmWay and I wrote a story about it. AmWay offers a clear view into America in many ways, in my opinion.

  2. AmWay, talk radio, even Oprah’s book club (insert here a plug from my brother’s book, Revolt of the Masscult) – all say much about who we are and who we long to be. As does, in many ways, Alaska.

  3. Andromeda Romano-Lax

    Yes, all good thought. And congrats Deb on several fronts — while flying home last night, I saw “Picture This Alaska” written up in a sidebar in the AK Airlines flight magazine. Way to go.

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