Notes for an Essay on "What Do People Do All Day?"

I love the first page of Richard Scarry’s classic What do people do all day? with the bookstore and the fiction writer and the poet and the painter given the same amount of representation as the grocer and banker. 

What is woman’s work? What is a writer’s job? What the fuck am I doing with my life?

Donald Hall (Life Work) / Seamus Heaney (“Digging”) vs.
Sarah Manguso / Maggie Nelson / Hein Koh (breastfeeding)

Sigrid Sandstrom: “The meditation later opens up as an un-analytical way of being, that de-emphasizes filtering the world through the eyes and brain; instead prioritizes bodily knowledge and physical sensation. So instead of ‘looking at oneself looking’, one can be with oneself in an embodied way. Being and experiencing are privileged as opposed to looking and seeing.” (

Ana Alvarez-Errecalde (female gazing)

From Solnit: “Find a vocation. Talent is overrated, and it is usually conflated with nice style. Passion, vocation, vision, and dedication are rarer, and they will get you through the rough spots in your style when your style won’t give you a reason to get up in the morning and stare at the manuscript for the hundredth day in a row or even give you a compelling subject to write about. If you’re not passionate about writing and about the world and the things in it you’re writing about, then why are you writing? It starts with passion even before it starts with words. You want to read people who are wise, deep, wild, kind, committed, insightful, attentive; you want to be those people. I am all for style, but only in service of vision.”