Suspend Your Disbelief

Posts Tagged ‘writing as career’

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"My novel is going nowhere"

You may have said those words once or twice yourself, perhaps? (If not, please leave this blog. Now.) It may comfort you to know that you are not alone in that sentiment: even established writers think so, now and then—and have for decades, if not centuries. To prove it, Michael Hoffman has combed through the letters of Joseph Roth, finding every mention of his novel The Radetzky March, which would become his masterpiece. Here’s a sampling: November 20, 1930 Joseph Roth to Stefan Zweig: “‘The Radetzky March,’ it’ll be called, set in the Dual Monarchy from 1890 to 1914. I’ll […]


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Imposter syndrome

When I first got to college, I was pretty sure that I was an admissions mistake. My roommate was one of Glamour‘s College Women of the Year. Another girl downstairs played piano with the Philharmonic; the guy down the hall was almost sixteen. A guy on the first floor held two patents. You get the idea. Even now, I occasionally get the feeling that I am a complete fraud, and I have no idea how I managed to convince people I had anything worthwhile to say. In my worst moments I suspect I will get a phone call rescinding awards […]


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When does a writer become a Writer?

That’s how I’d have capitalized this recent article by The Atlantic, which asked that rather big question. Describing Alex Jenni, a French biology teacher who recently won the Prix Goncourt, France’s top literary award, the article noted, In the Alexis Jenni school of thought, a writer may be someone, anyone, with a compulsion to scrawl or the conviction of having something to say. A writer is not defined by his career, but the simple act of writing regularly. And authors who found success through the muck of making ends meet have taken that approach for some time now, in practice […]


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Why to give up on your novel–or not start at all

Everywhere you look, there are reasons not to write. If you believe in omens–as I do–you may start to wonder if the universe is trying to tell you something. You may feel like you shouldn’t even start writing. Recently, the Huffington Post offered 10 reasons not to write your novel. And some of them are pretty damn good. For instance: 2. Someone has already written your novel, and better than you ever could. Certainly you’ve visited a bookstore, picked up a new release novel the plot summary of which filled you with loathing. “That’s the idea I had,” you mutter. […]


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"Work" writing and "really" writing

Like many writers, I tend to think of job-related writing–like copywriting, or editing, or ghostwriting memos–as Not Really Writing. In the Huffington Post, though, Holly Robinson expresses a very different point of view: “Doesn’t it bug you to write other people’s books when you could be working on your own?” another writer asked me recently. Not a bit. In fact, I love telling other people’s stories. What other job would allow me to walk in another person’s shoes so completely that I’d feel their blisters? Working as a book doctor or ghost writer, I have the opportunity to immerse myself […]


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Quit your day job

Recently Chip Cheek, a writer and the administration coordinator at Grub Street in Boston, quit his job—even though he loved it. He explains why in an essay on Grub Street’s blog: I have always had a full-time job, even while I was getting my MFA. It has seemed the prudent thing to do: keep a steady, reasonably well-paid job, so you can dedicate all your worrying to writing. It’s a good idea; Flaubert said something similar, although Flaubert didn’t have to worry about actually having a job. Also he took forever to write his books. Over time, in this multitasking, […]


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Help during "The Long Haul"

So maybe Tuesday’s post on the 10-year novel got you down. Here’s some encouragement: lit site The Rumpus is introducing a new occasional column, “The Long Haul,” featuring writers reflecting on the (long-term) writing life. Or, as the editors put it: Whether you’re a literary wunderkind whose first book was a bestseller, or one of the thousands of writers who have to claw their way to a sustainable career, the writing life requires patience and resilience, a commitment to faithfully staying the course though the course sometimes offers little encouragement or reward. And yet we do it; we pass up […]


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A decade in the making…

On Slate.com, Susanna Daniels reflects on the process of writing her first novel—which she describes as “the quiet hell of 10 years of novel writing”: During my should-be-writing years, I thought about my novel all the time. Increasingly, these were not happy or satisfying thoughts. My “novel” (which had started to wear its own air quotes in my head) became something closer to enemy than lover. A person and his creative work exist in a relationship very much like a marriage: When it’s good, it’s very good, and when it’s bad, it’s ugly. And when it’s been bad for a […]




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