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 other opportunities, neglect other pursuits, sacrifice free time, travel, relationships, prestige, in the name of something most people just don’t care much about. We come to a crossroads every day, and every day we take the same left turn. Is this the definition of insanity? No, it’s the Long Haul.
The first “Long Haul” column is by novelist and teacher Stacey D’Erasmo, who has this advice to offer:
It helps if you’re already outside the social norms for whatever reason and have some experience making a path where there isn’t one. John F. Kennedy, Jr., say, probably wouldn’t have been a very interesting writer. James Baldwin was a great one. We don’t teach this to our students—we can’t. What would we say? Be a freak, or at least have the courage of one? I mean, sometimes we do say that… but since we usually say it while standing in a university classroom—and the university is the patron of the arts of our time; we’d be toast without it—the context tends to belie the message: Be a freak, but meet with my institutionally validated approval.
Nevertheless, this is what I see. Over the long haul, whether you ever intended to or not, you find yourself building a system of values that supports your art as much as, if not more than, any of your grants, publishers, prizes, editors, or good reviews. And to see this is also to see that what I have created over the years is a sort of double life, split between two communities. […]