From today’s NPR Book News:
Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert is taking on Philip Roth over some advice he gave to a young writer named Julian Tepper. In a Paris Review essay, Tepper says Roth told him he should quit writing: “Really, it’s an awful field. Just torture. Awful. You write and write, and you have to throw almost all of it away because it’s not any good. I would say just stop now. You don’t want to do this to yourself.” Gilbert counters with an essay in which she says being able to write for a living is “a profoundly luxurious act,” and not “some sort of dreadful Mayan curse, or dark martyrdom that only a chosen few can withstand for the betterment of humanity.” Amen. Roth, for his part, hasn’t said anything.
This little blurb particularly struck me today, because I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about writing lately. I love writing. It makes me happy. I love revising. That makes me happy too. (I don’t tend to care for reading the comments that lead to revising. That’s just painful. But what’s a little pleasure without pain, right…?) In fact, I’m going to have a short story published in anthology by the end of the month. Woo!
But I wrote that story last spring, and I haven’t really written anything since. I made a really half-hearted attempt at NaNoWriMo last November, but the timing was bad and the idea I was working on didn’t even start to gel until about the 20th of November.
Novels are intimidating.
On vacation, over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been reading a lot of short stories. Jeffery Archer is possibly my favorite short-story author of all time. If you haven’t read any of his work, go check him out now. I also gave some time to Steven King (though I vastly prefer his short stories to his novels, this particular collection was a little dull) and an anthology of Best-Of Sci-Fi and Fantasy. In the anthology, each story is preceded by an author bio which lists the humongous number of awards and awesome publication credits these authors have.
Which lists make me jealous.
“Laura,” I say to myself (because in moments of self-loathing I always talk to myself), “you’re not allowed to be jealous. You’ve never even tried to publish in any of these fancy magazines, so it isn’t like you’re failing where these people are succeeding. You’re failing on a completely different level!”
But I’m right, you know. I socialize in circles of writers. I have two friends who have been published in such impressive journals as noted above. They do it because they write, they edit, and then they try to get published. If they can do it, why can’t I?
Because I’m not very focused. Nothing new there. Look at this poor blog. I was posting 4-5 times a week when I started. Now I’m down to what, 4-5 times a year?
I read a blog around the end of the December that described the author’s mission to read 366 books during 2012. Ridiculous, right? But he did it. He did it because he didn’t do anything else for fun that year. He kept up with his job and continued to be a good husband and father, but he gave up video games, he gave up newspapers, he gave up everything except reading books.
That thought, combined with the Cracked article about harsh truths that will make you a better person, has really been rattling around in my brain for the last couple of months. “Do the math: How much of your time is spent consuming things other people made (TV, music, video games, websites) versus making your own? Only one of those adds to your value as a human being.”
I don’t DO much. I consume a lot, but I don’t DO much.
Perhaps it’s time to see about switching that up. If a dude can read a book every day of the year by giving up all of his other hobbies, surely I could write a few stories in a year by just slimming down on a few of mine?
My life is full of interesting places, interesting events, and most importantly, interesting people. I certainly do not lack for material about which to write. (Ooh, and look at that good grammar!) So let’s do this thing. Let’s get some stories written, or some blog posts, or even some letters to people I haven’t seen in awhile. Then maybe one day I really will be the person my 5-year-old self was sure I would be, after writing my first story, called “Majic Dors”. (Upon reflection, that story idea was awesome. Doors that take you to magic places? Maybe I should revisit that.)