Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Becoming a Writer

A friend sent me this link today to an interview with a writer named Ben Fountain. You can click to read the whole thing--
But my favorite part is below.

Many writers are hardly "overnight success" stories. How long did it take for you to get where you are today? Any rejection-slip horror stories or inspirational anecdotes?

It's embarrassing, but I'll go ahead and say it in the hopes that it will help keep some people going who should keep going -- I wrote for 17 years before getting a book contract. During that time I spent the better part of five years writing a novel about Haiti that never sold, and got enough rejections from magazines to fill a mid-size car. Had an agent who dropped me in the classic way, by not returning phone calls, never answering mail. It took about ten years of getting beat down for me to decide why I was writing, which was: I wanted to write. I wanted to get better, to write something that pleased me -- that struck me as authentic and real and artful. And it seems as if I had to burn through all expectations of worldly success before I could start doing that kind of work.

I've been working at my writing almost full-time since my marriage ended. A couple of years before that, I had begun to dabble. A coffee house writing group segued into classes at UCLA Extension (which were excellent.) Then the night that my now 20-year-old daughter and I stood next to her computer and pushed the send button on the last of her college applications, I was flooded with a sense of my own possibilities. In the two years since then--which pretty much coincides with the moment Mr. Ex and I split, I've set out to create a kind of writer's resume for myself (fellowships, getting some short pieces published) and to get my MFA. I love to read about writers who have found themselves on the long and winding road.


Elizabeth said...

I think it's only a matter of time before we'll be reading interviews with you. I hope I'm in one of those interviews as the other "famous writer" from one of your first writing groups.

Anonymous said...

I've been writing up a storm, but not sending things out yet. I have been enjoying your success though.

For so long I just dabbled with writing a scribble here or a bit of a story there. It's good to have the time to see things through to completion now.

Anonymous said...

Love that interview, and it's exactly what I need to hear right now. For a variety of reasons that would be best discussed over cocktails. Sigh. I miss you.


LG Burroughs said...

Here's to the long and winding road. So glad our roads are diverging. xoxo