Writers, enough already.

Just stop.

Stop resisting failure and stop fighting failure and stop fighting your resistance to failure. All this fighting just adds a whole other level of energy-sucking, mood-killing and creativity-busting. We can also stop trying to think positive. And forget about star-reaching or being-like [fill in the blank]. We can, however, hold a goal very loosely (or forget it completely) and accept we need to do what writers need to do: write, revise, send.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately and then—thank you, Universe—read this piece:

WHY YOU SHOULD AIM FOR 
100 REJECTIONS A YEAR—KIM LIAO ON FLIPPING YOUR PERSPECTIVE ON SUBMISSIONS, AND FAILING BEST

which sums up the “why” a flip in perspective is so meaningful.

From the piece:

My ego resists mustering up the courage to submit writing to literary magazines, pitch articles, and apply for grants, residencies, and fellowships. Yet these painful processes are necessary evils if we are ever to climb out of our safe but hermetic cocoons of isolation and share our writing with the world. Perhaps aiming for rejection, a far more attainable goal, would take some of the sting out of this ego-bruising exercise—which so often feels like an exercise in futility.

I hope this helps you to stop fighting the resistance, too. —M

Email This Post to a Friend

“I’m amazed by how often I’ve struggled with piece of writing only to return to it months, or even years, later to find that it all comes together with little thought.”
—Sam Apple

 

Sam Apple’s first book for children, The Saddest Toilet in the World, was published this month. Apple is the author of Schlepping Through the Alps and American Parent.  His work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The New Republic, Wired, The Los Angeles Times, The Financial Times Magazine, ESPN The Magazine, The MIT Technology Review, The New Yorker (online), McSweeney’s, and Slate.com, among many others. He was a finalist for the PEN America Award for a first work of nonfiction. Apple teaches creative writing and science journalism at the University of Pennsylvania. He was the founder and publisher of The Faster Times.

Meredith: Writing—or the dream of calling oneself an author or writer—seems, for many, to have this highly addictive, seductiveness about it. Like: I’d really be someone if I could write. Or be a writer, author, etc. But it’s not writing that imbues itself with these characteristics, it’s the person. Why, do you think, it’s such a seductive slope?

SAM: I’m not sure I know the answer to the question, but I think it touches on an interesting phenomenon. It seems to me that lots and lots of people want to be authors, but I’m not so sure that lots and lots of people still want to read books. I’m not sure how the seductiveness of authorship has survived the diminishing role of literature in American life, but I suppose I’m glad that it has survived

Meredith: Writing [or maybe, revision?] is [generally] solitary. Selling is not—selling as in marketing, promo. How do you help them make peace with one anther inside you? Or do they?

SAM: I don’t think they ever do quite make peace inside of me. I know plenty of great writers who are extroverts, and they tend to do a fantastic job of publicizing their work. But I’m more of the stereotypical quiet, standing-alone-by-the-appetizers type of writer. I try to promote my work on social media, but I always feel a bit self-Sam_Apple_Jewish_Writers_You_Wish_You_Knew_About_2.09.12_-_6876738965conscious about it. What’s interesting, I think, is that I find it hard to be open on social media, and yet my shyness doesn’t prevent me from writing very personal things in my books. I think book writing creates a safe distance between me and my audience (or, at least, gives me the illusion that such a distance exists), whereas the immediacy of social media collapses that distance.

end or foe?Meredith: When you sit down to write, are you in charge? What I mean is this: are you the scribe or the master creator? Both? Neither? Sort-of corollary: would you describe your mind (in terms of writing) as a fri

SAM: I am definitely not in charge, and I think that the less in charge I feel, the better my work turns out. I suspect a lot of writers feel the same way.  I’ve long been fascinated by this phenomenon, but what struck me more recently is that if I’m not in charge when I’m writing, I’m probably not in charge when I’m not writing either, as I don’t think conscious control is the sort of thing one can turn on and off. So, thinking about this question had made me deeply skeptical of the entire notion of free will.

Meredith: Can somesaddest-toilet stories not be found? Why/why not?

SAM: I’m not entirely sure, but I do think that many stories need to percolate for a long time to before they’re ready to make it out into the world. I’m amazed by how often I’ve struggled with piece of writing only to return to it months, or even years, later to find that it all comes together with little thought. I suppose this touches on my response to the previous question.

Meredith: Homeostasis is a concept I learned on my first day of graduate school. It means the desire to revert back to the familiar, for things to remain the same. As a writer, how do you remedy this type of stagnation which can thwart creativity? Or, do you believe there’s a time for it?

SAM: Another interesting, tough question. I think there’s only so much you can do to fight the homeostasis, and many of my favorite writers tend to hit the same notes over and over in their books — Philip Roth and George Saunders come to mind. But one of the very nice things about writing is that there aren’t many drawbacks to taking risks in your work. The worst that’s going to happen is that you waste your time, or perhaps end up with a bad review. I always encourage my writing students to experiment with different genres and themes.

I’m reminded of a bit of wisdom I picked up from the memoir of the great fiction editor, Ted Solotaroff. While driving with Bernard Malamud at night, Solotaroff was struck by Malamud’s cautiousness behind the wheel, and by how this caution stood in stark contradiction to the risks Malamud took in his work.  Solotaroff never forgot the lesson: caution in life; daring on the page.

[Thanks, Sam!]

Email This Post to a Friend

The 5-Question [Memoirist/Journalist] Interview: Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell

“I always ask myself if that part of my story will harm others and if so, is it necessary for the story’s lesson…” —Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell is a journalist and author living her dream life with her husband and 5 dogs in a 480-square foot cabin in the Ozark Mountains. Her memoir, LIVING LARGE […]

Read the full article →

The 5-Question [Memoir Author] Interview: Jen A. Miller

“I like being slightly uncomfortable when I’m writing about something….It forces me to dig deeper and learn more than I’d probably ever use in the piece.” — Jen. A Miller   Jen A. Miller is author of Running: A Love Story. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Philadelphia Inquirer, Runner’s […]

Read the full article →

The Fiction Writer and The Muse

To celebrate Kim’s debut novel PEOPLE WHO KNEW ME, here’s vintage Hooper as she writes about writing. [And there’s also my interview with Kim.] by Kim Hooper In writing, there is much discussion of “the muse.” Who is it? Do we wait for him/her/it to appear, or go to work anyway? Does the fact that […]

Read the full article →

Jeffrey Eugenides on writing The Virgin Suicides: “You write your first book in a great state of innocence.”

This video, part of The Paris Review’s My First Time series, moved me as a writer … but also as a person living life. It’s of Jeffrey Eugenides talking about the internal process of writing his first novel THE VIRGIN SUICIDES. And about so much more. “Each book that you write, you swim a long […]

Read the full article →

Your Muse? Loves Risk.

“…what we call the Muse is simply a form of intuition.  Intuition is a matter of successfully sync’ing your internal and external worlds so you can easily move about your environment based on your previous experience.” —Kayt Sukel Kayt Sukel is the author of two books including THIS IS YOUR BRAIN ON SEX: THE SCIENCE […]

Read the full article →

The 5-Question [YA/Children’s Author] Interview: Nora Baskin

Measuring ourselves against those we admire and aspire to be is what making good art is all about. I reach as high as I can. —Nora Baskin Nora Baskin is an award-winning author of books for children and young adults. She has written more than a dozen books, most inspired by her life events growing […]

Read the full article →