Feb 06

How 'Me' Can I Be?

Surprise: I'm writing less carefully these days. Not with less attention to grammar and spelling, not that. But I'm just letting it spill. Or letting it flow. I'm not taking the time to refine, refine, refine -- and then get word from an editor that she/he has a few suggestions (and remember, in my experience, editors' suggestions have 90 percent of the time been good ones. Start out as a journalist; that'll take the prima donna outta you). What's more important, I'm also asking myself -- more writing getting out, or less writing being sifted, re-sifted, shifted, pulled apart, stitched together? What about those whole days spent on one word or phrase? Whole weeks spent on one line? Was I being great-souled, or was I being crazy?

Have I been lied to? What is this thing about "perfection"? Are all great pieces of writing sweated over? I know one that isn't, the American masterpiece Moby-Dick. I mean, that's a breathtaking book. And yet somewhere in its depths author Melville put forth what I thought an unforgettable cry:

"This whole book is but a draft—nay, but the draft of a draft. Oh, Time, Strength, Cash, and Patience!"
Jul 03

If Not Now, When?

"If it's good, it will eventually be published." Tess Gallagher said this to our class twenty years ago. It is true. (Cringe.) Yes, it's true.

I didn't want to wait for "eventually". I mean, Tess published her first book at about age 30, the age I was then. And I didn't want to take a chance that somebody who was somehow incapable of appreciating my work now would find it to be good -- "eventually."

I hate to be patient or advise any other writer to be patient, because they won't be. So I'll say "Have confidence," and "Keep writing."

You believe what you write is good, don't you? That it's literature? If it's good, it's like any other good literature, like Twain or Dickens or Dickinson or Cather or what have you: It'll keep! Have faith that one day you'll know exactly where to send it, or what to do with it, or that someone will ask for it. Keep writing because "eventually" will come. It will surely bring with it requests for other things you've written. "We'd like to see more of your stories -- do you have any?" "I heard you read your poems at ____. Want to do a reading for us?" (And at that reading is an editor, or someone who knows someone who publishes chapbooks, and if your poems are truly good. . .)

If what you write is good, "eventually" will come. So stock up now!