Monday, February 8, 2010


This essay, by Dani Shapiro, hurts a little.

She quotes an essay called "Writing in the Cold: The First Ten Years" by Ted Solotaroff, editor and founder of the New American Review.

In his essay, Solotaroff wonders what happened to all the young and talented writers he came across when editing his magazine.

Most of these writers, he reports, had given up. A few kept writing and publishing. But most seemed to disappear (writing-wise, that is).

Solotaroff writes:

"It doesn't appear to be a matter of talent itself. 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."

Shapiro's essay is worth checking out. She talks about that "miserable trifecta: uncertainty, rejection, disappointment." She talks about how things have changed since she started her writing career.

And she talks about how she sees young writers who are after the big deal, the big score, the big book that gets the big advance.

Shapiro writes:

"The emphasis is on publishing, not on creating. On being a writer, not on writing itself. The publishing industry -- always the nerdy distant cousin of the rest of media -- has the same blockbuster-or-bust mentality of television networks and movie studios. There now exist only two possibilities: immediate and large-scale success, or none at all. There is no time to write in the cold, much less for 10 years."

Writers must work hard. Writers must be prepared to be disappointed and neurotic and full of tunneling doubt. Writers must also be patient. Above all else, yes, they must endure. It's hard to think long term, I know, especially these days.

"We need to be thinking about your long-term career."

That's what the agent I'm currently working with told me in our first phone conversation. That meant a lot. It still does.

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