Log in

25 November 2012 @ 11:24 am
"This is the same place / no not the same place / this is the same place we've been before"  

Dani Shapiro on writing and scale and careers:

“Solotaroff wondered where all the talented young writers he had known or published when he was first editing New American Review had gone. Only a few had flourished. Some, he speculated, had ended up teaching, publishing occasionally in small journals. But most had just . . . given up. ‘It doesn’t appear to be a matter of talent itself,’ he wrote. ‘Some of the most natural writers, the ones who seemed to shake their prose or poetry out of their sleeves, are among the disappeared. As far as I can tell, the decisive factor is what I call endurability: that is, the ability to deal effectively with uncertainty, rejection, and disappointment, from within as well as from without.’

“… my internal life as a writer has been a constant battle with the small, whispering voice (well, sometimes it shouts) that tells me I can’t do it. This time, the voice taunts me, you will fall flat on your face. Every single piece of writing I have ever completed — whether a novel, a memoir, an essay, short story or review — has begun as a wrestling match between hopelessness and something else, some other quality that all writers, if they are to keep going, must possess.”

More than a bit of cane-thumping follows, with many of the same arguments about publishing’s newly fallen state being made that I remember from 20 years ago. But amid that, the author’s point about writers needing to be willing to struggle and persist and fail, and most of all resist the need for, even expectation of, the instant score–when every overnight success is so quickly spread and shared–are well taken.

(Link via tltrent.)

Mirrored from Desert Dispatches: Wordpress Edition.

fjmfjm on November 25th, 2012 06:51 pm (UTC)
And some people just feel they've said what they wanted to say. I saw an interview with Winifred Watson (of Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day) and she wrote that once the bombs started dropping the books all felt a bit silly.

In my own life, I have three more book contracts. I have no ideas at all for a book beyond that, and it may well be that this is the end of my writing career. If so, c'est la vie. I never wrote to be a writer, I wrote (write) because I had something to say and it was the only way to do it.
Janni Lee Simner: duckstoryjanni on November 25th, 2012 07:05 pm (UTC)
That's a really good point, that there's a difference between giving up and simply saying, "Okay, I've done this thing and done it well and now it's complete." The latter is an entirely different thing, and has nothing to do with despair or lack of persistence at all.
fjmfjm on November 25th, 2012 07:09 pm (UTC)
As a teacher and manager I long ago realised that there are two extremes along which people fall: process v project. Many of my writer friends are process people. They love the feeling of writing. Writing is their life blood. They would write even if publishing didn't exist and no one would read their work (some to write, others to tell stories, fiction or non-fiction). I am not like that. I have a job I want to achieve and when it's done i look for a new one.
Janni Lee Simner: duckstoryjanni on November 26th, 2012 01:28 am (UTC)
That makes sense.

Being an extreme process person myself, I wonder what the in-between state is like, since I assume it's a continuum, as most things are.
fjmfjm on November 26th, 2012 05:42 am (UTC)
Possibly someone like my partner who would never stop reading and writing, but does need some kind of external motivation to focus on what.
Sherwood Smithsartorias on November 25th, 2012 07:26 pm (UTC)
Just as drive and talent are not the same thing, so can each have their ebb and flow over the course of a lifetime. (The brilliant young thing can be stale by age 25; the driven writer can wake up one day and think, "Why am I bothering? Working on my garden is more meaningful.")
Janni Lee Simner: duckstoryjanni on November 26th, 2012 01:29 am (UTC)
This makes sense, too. And maybe then the trick is figuring out when "working on my garden is more meaningful" is true and right, and when it's a statement of despair about the current work. I can see how it could be either of those things, and how it could be tricky to tell.

Though if it's the latter, maybe the writing will find its way back through, one way or another.
Sherwood Smithsartorias on November 26th, 2012 01:32 am (UTC)
Yeah--I know people who have pretty much retired from it, with no look-back. And others who still want to do it, but don't find the time . . . and so on.
Janni Lee Simner: Iceland/ravensjanni on November 26th, 2012 01:35 am (UTC)
Infinite variations ...
Marissa Lingenmrissa on November 25th, 2012 07:29 pm (UTC)
I think one of the things that's important about this is that the ability to persevere with the business end and the ability to write good prose are not being correlated. I don't think they're anti-correlated either, but no one has ever demonstrated to my satisfaction that ability to endure the specific vagaries of publishing at the moment--whether you choose to do the self-publishing and thus self-marketing route or whether you choose to deal with the ins and outs of trying to get a publisher--actually is at all the same as ability to write books that I like. So I'm always glad to see people separating out those threads. To be a writer--that is, to have work available, to have an identity as a writer--you do need to endure the uncertainty, rejection, and disappointment. But that's not the same as to write you need those things, or need them in the same ways. Some of the rhetoric that gets tossed around in this field appalls me; thank you for countering the trend thoughtfully.
Janni Lee Simner: duckstoryjanni on November 26th, 2012 01:32 am (UTC)
That makes much sense. You can decide the writing matters deeply to you, but the business of it either doesn't matter or exacts too high an emotional price, and so pursue the former without the latter.

I think I started out, like so many writers, being pretty didactic in my rhetoric too. I've been trying to learn/pay attention more and more, and to understand the range of experiences better and better. It's fascinating and worth understanding.

The best advice I ever heard, from multiple sources at this point, was, "Your process is your process. Honor it."

It's learning to understand that one isn't wrong, but neither are all the other writers who do this thing very differently.

Edited at 2012-11-26 01:33 am (UTC)
writerjenn: KeepWritingwriterjenn on November 25th, 2012 10:06 pm (UTC)
I have heard this observation many times before, from many sources (several of them writing teachers, or those in the publishing industry): perseverance is the most important quality, even more important than talent, in determining who ends up building a career out of writing.

Kind of comforting, in a way, to think that there is some rough correlation to the effort we put in!
Janni Lee Simner: Iceland/ravensjanni on November 26th, 2012 01:34 am (UTC)
It is! I think I've come to believe that while there are never any guarantees, effort/perseverence skews the odds in one's favor, and ups the chances one will be there and writing when all the other elements do come together.