Junot Diaz has a powerful and inspiring essay in O Magazine about writing his Pulitzer-Prize winning novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Though the piece is titled “Becoming a Writer,” it’s really an account of almost giving up on writing and, inexorably, being drawn back to it:
Nothing I wrote past page 75 made any kind of sense. Nothing. Which would have been fine if the first 75 pages hadn’t been pretty damn cool. But they were cool, showed a lot of promise. Would also have been fine if I could have just jumped to something else. But I couldn’t. All the other novels I tried sucked worse than the stalled one, and even more disturbing, I seemed to have lost the ability to write short stories. It was like I had somehow slipped into a No-Writing Twilight Zone and I couldn’t find an exit. […]
I put the manuscript away. All the hundreds of failed pages, boxed and hidden in a closet. I think I cried as I did it. Five years of my life and the dream that I had of myself, all down the tubes because I couldn’t pull off something other people seemed to pull off with relative ease: a novel. By then I wasn’t even interested in a Great American Novel. I would have been elated with the eminently forgettable NJ novel.
Print this one out and tack it up by your desk to read when you feel like packing your manuscript into a drawer.
Thanks to Danielle for pointing this essay out.