“I am writing for myself and strangers.” Quoting Stein leads to inevitable creativity. I enjoyed the comment to my last blog (# 44) that offered a Stein quote: “I am writing for myself and strangers. The strangers, dear Reader, are an afterthought.” This came from Germany, from She Writer Ginster Votteler who got it from Wilson Sherwin’s group “Favorite Quotes About Writing” contributed by She Writer Amy-Jo Sprague, who got it…? I wonder excitedly. Did she invent it? Does it sound like Stein?
Here is the fact. Stein wrote in The Making of Americans:
“I am writing for myself and strangers. This is the only way that I can do it. Everybody is a real one for me, everybody is like some one else too to me. No one of them that I know can want to know it and so I write for myself and strangers.”
In this early period of her writing, around 1906, she had, in fact, no reader. Her brother Leo Stein, with whom she shared the studio apartment at 27, rue de Fleurus, and the weekly salon, did not understand what she was trying to do — which was to do in writing what her friend Picasso was doing in painting. In 1913, when the siblings had separated forever, Leo lumped Picasso and Gertrude together in a letter to their friend Mabel Weeks: “Both he and Gertrude are using their intellects, which they ain’t got, to do what would need the finest critical tact, which they ain’t got neither, and they are in my belief turning out the most Godalmighty rubbish that is to be found.”
What had not yet been found by Gertrude was The Reader, HER reader, with whom writing would turn into a daily blessing, into a frequent inner dialogue and sometimes a real dialogue: Alice, of course. Before that turn of events, she confessed in what some readers later considered her “great American novel”:
“I am all unhappy in this writing. I know very much of the meaning of the being in men and women. I know it and feel it and I am always learning more of it and now I am telling it and I am nervous and driving and unhappy in it.
Sometimes I will be all happy in it.”