Once in a while I become doubtful about what I am doing in pursuing a dream that is perhaps not realistic or never going to happen. And of course as always I ask myself what’s the point. But then I sit at my desk and start reading. I read what other writers’ take is on this matter and eventually I get inspired and put aside all thoughts of self-doubt. Here’s one such letter that I would like to share with you, Ann Beattie wrote this to a Young Fiction Writer:
“If I had not been asked to offer some thoughts to someone starting their career, I feel sure I would not be writing the words I am about to write. And the reason is really inextricable from one of the most important things I can say: you must do your own work- the work you are compelled to do- rather than capitulating, and letting your arms be twisted like Gumby’s. There is only so much time, and you have only so much energy (and, I hope, a little more than you think, because you’ll need that to carry you through), and your obligation is to yourself, and to your work.
What I mean is that curious people- perfectly okay to be curious; also perfectly okay to pass on other peoples’ curiosity- will want to know if you write every day, what your writing habits are, whether you take characters from so-called real life, etc. They are asking because they want to hear that on some level- and they will clutch at the most tenuous filament- what you do is just a version of what they do. It isn’t.
But by way of advice? What can I say- don’t make mistakes? Hardly likely.
Find the time to write. Protect the time to write. Be inventive: get gorgons. Forget e-mail. Whatever it takes. Because you’ll still need more time than there is, and also it’s important to leave enough time to waste. That’s one of the many reasons the stereotype writer with the bottle holds, though the creative wasting of time is not only more fun, but nobler. Don’t let people persuade you to walk away from your material, and don’t let them persuade themselves that you are only another version of them ( I suppose it’s harmless delusion for them, but don’t be around when they’re stating the ostensible similarities. Such comparisons kill brain cells).
Hope for luck, wish to turn out to be photogenic, pray that the mess that book publishing is in may eventually result in something good.
May the road rise you. … Just kidding. Put out of your mind my advice and anyone else’s and listen to that inner voice. It will prevail over the inner child, that will tell you to go running and screaming away from writing, directly to the playground.
People who do not write will tell you that they haven’t gotten around to it yet because they know they can do it. They just need to get the kids in school, hire a lawn service and spend weekends writing, re-cycle their notebooks into usable material, make a concerted effort to remember their dreams. It can be done tomorrow. Any time. They are just about to get to it- that thing comes naturally to all of us, that thing we’ve all done all through school and with great elan in our love letters. The books they could write, their plots based on something that happened to them, that are more exciting than le Carré’s. Tomorrow. Tomorrow. I’ll see you tomorrow.
They are not writing because they can. You are writing because you can’t.”