Tuesday, February 3, 2009
"We're All Hacks," says Young Writer
Here's an anonymous email from today's mail bag:
"After six years of continuous writing, continuous submissions, continuous rejection, I’ve had nine short stories published. Some in journals no one’s heard of. Well, most. I just had a story published in West Branch. A journal you can find in a bookstore. A journal with a barcode. And then I had a story nominated for the Pushcart. I’m twenty-three, and I know you’ve never heard of me. I didn’t have a problem until I went snooping around your site more. And I read Ted Genoways’ contribution, the links to stories by young writers.
Now I have a problem.
Being a young writer doesn’t grant you a god-damned thing. Does it get you more attention because your peers aren’t as introspective? Because you devote yourself to something? Do I deserve an actual response as opposed to an automated rejection email from VQR? We all do. What bullshit am I supposed to be swallowing here? That somehow being younger gives me an advantage? That the editors of VQR are plucking up young talent and perching them on the thin limb of success?
I still live at home. I don’t have a job. I have a novel that I can’t edit because I can’t stand to read it. Because it reminds me of the four other novels I’ve written. Because no one wants to read them. Getting noticed for writing doesn’t change anything. No one’s sitting in an ideal world where all their problems have dissolved because they became successful writers. Faulkner was constantly in financial distress. He drank himself to death because he was a miserable man, mostly for not making enough money as a writer. And this was after he won the Nobel prize.
Recognition doesn’t give you confidence. When you sit in front of a blank page, you’re just as miserable as everyone else who likes words. No one really knows how to tell a story. That’s why we keep trying. It’s why everyone is rejected. No one knows how to tell a story and no one knows how to read. So when a clueless writer and a clueless editor cross paths, magic happens and a story gets published, and everyone else laments and resents and calls them both hacks. We’re all hacks. The secret to writing is knowing how to exploit it. That’s what publishing is. Shame on you if you think it’s a deep, spiritual endeavor. Stories move audiences. Not writers. Not editors. We’re immune.
Today was not a good day to think about writing."
How about we show our true good natures and give this anonynewbie some encouragement?