Anisse Gross is a writer living in San Francisco.
When people ask what do you do, you tell them…?
I tell them I’m a writer. I then get very annoyed if they ask me if it’s what I do for money. People in America are obsessed with how you make your money. It’s sad the way people conflate the way they make money with who they are. I write for money and I write for art. That being said, I feel good saying I’m a writer. It’s what I want to be.
What’s your biggest struggle—work or otherwise?
My first struggle is money. That’s a big struggle but I don’t care about that struggle. Caring too much about money reveals a smallness in a way. Obviously money is important, but only to a certain extent. Someone once said to me, having money doesn’t matter, but not having enough really does. My more important struggle is with doubt, both of the world around me and of myself and my work. Moving past doubt is a beautiful thing — I wish it came more frequently for me.
If someone said I want to do what you do, what advice would you have for them?
The easiest way to be a writer is to write. It’s pretty simple, on paper that is. My advice: Work tirelessly, be open, don’t judge your own work too harshly. Be nice to as many people as possible. Be prepared for solitude, poverty, and the glory and curse of anonymity. Then be ready for the possible glory and curse of fame.
Do you consider yourself successful? Why?
I don’t know how to measure success and don’t care to. I wish I was more prolific, but that’s different. I wish I wrote more, but success is a dangerous thing to ponder.
When you’re sad/grumpy/pissed off, what YouTube video makes you feel better?
I’ve always been obsessed with Arthur Ganson’s videos. This one, Machine with Wishbone, makes me feel understood, not necessarily any happier, but understood.
I’ve always admired my mother because she’s so generous with her time. I also deeply admired Pee-Wee Herman, a man who refused to grow up, and had lots of great things in his house.
What’s wrong with society today?
No one talks to strangers. No one rides with strangers. No one is strange enough.
What is your fondest memory?
The general extended memory of my childhood growing up in Hawai’i, chasing peacocks and picking mountain apples and never having to wear clothes.
How many times do you fall in love each day?
Too many times. Often I don’t leave the house because I worry that I’m in one of those moods where my heart is going to be broken every five minutes.
What would you like to see happen in your lifetime?
Too many things to list. But I would love for women to feel safe, for the world to be less violent and discriminatory. I would love for animals not to be tested on. For children to never enter harm’s way. For people to care about the planet. I’m certain that the things I wish for this world exceed the word count allowed for this article!
What is art? Is it necessary? Why?
Forget necessary — it’s inevitable. Art will always happen, because creativity is natural. It can’t be stopped.
What are you working on right now?
I’m trying to finish a novel and a “living memoir”, a memoir that takes place in real time.
What kind of work would you like to do? Or: what kind of writing do you most admire?
If I wasn’t a writer, or even if I am still a writer, I would maybe like to run a small café in the middle of nowhere. The kind of place where all your customers are passing through and all the exchanges feel serendipitous. As far as writing goes, I’d like to write something beautiful and true. I admire writers who can easily touch the sublime.
If there were one thing about the Bay Area that you would change, what would it be?
I would bring back the artists and the sense of possibility. I would bring back heterogeneity, and prevent ugly new condos from replacing all the lovely Victorian and Edwardian beauties. I’d also bring back more dive bars. Also, I would make it cheap. If a place is cheap and by the ocean, it’s a good place to be.
A night on the town: what does that mean to you?
Ah, well I know San Francisco in and out. A night on the town means stumbling between two or three dive bars, and breathing in the cold air. Or a solo date where I ride the f train from North Beach all the way to the Castro theatre and watch a noir film. Nights like those. Not much more, hopefully no less.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever seen?
So many things, but the first that comes to mind is a man walking around the Folsom Street Fair naked, shackled at the ankles, taking little steps, a lock around his flaccid penis and a key dangling from his mouth. Then again, this is San Francisco. Strange isn’t strange here.
What can you do with 50 words? 50 dollars?
For 50 dollars I can make the most romantic meal for two. Hopefully it’s enough of a statement that I won’t need those 50 words.
What are some of your favorite smells?
I love the smell of smoke. Coffee. Night blooming jasmine. Onions and garlic in the pan. The ocean. As cliché as it sounds, I also love the smell of roses. I also like ordering samples of perfume online and smelling them. Also, some of my favorite smells are just reading about smells. People who can describe smells are the most talented poets.
If you got an all expenses paid life experience of your choice, what would it be?
It would be to get a dog — a small, scruffy, loyal and discerning dog — a train ticket and a bottle of brandy and travel across the world forever.