When the Writing Life Isn’t About Talent, Discipline, or Stubbornness

Photo credit: Julien Sanine via Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC-ND
Photo credit: Julien Sanine via Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC-ND

The act of risking and enduring failure is celebrated at length these days. I don’t know if this is a new phenomenon, perhaps arising out of Silicon Valley startup culture, or if it’s an old philosophy that’s become newly relevant. Certainly humans have had to face their fears again and again, and fear of failure is one of the most significant.

Author Melissa Yancy (@melyancy), in her essay The Upside of Failure, shines a new light on what failure brings to the writing life. Her exploration isn’t the usual reflection on rejection, but rather a contemplation of what it means to keep writing when you don’t or can’t launch into it full-time, and it’s a day job that pays the bills. She writes:

… over the last decade, I’d seen many of my friends stop writing fiction, or stop writing altogether. It wasn’t from lack of talent, and more surprisingly, it wasn’t about discipline, either. The writers I knew who had taken their writing most seriously—working part-time, freelancing, and making significant financial sacrifice to spend more time on their work—were the ones who most easily gave it up when a stable career opportunity came around.

For years, when all else failed, I would think of something I’d heard Ron Carlson say: the writer goes to the stubborn. If I didn’t feel disciplined, or inspired, or talented, I knew I could be that: I could be stubborn. But when I talked to friends who had been able to give it up, I realized it was no longer stubbornness that kept me coming back.

Read Yancy’s entire essay in the latest Glimmer Train bulletin.

Also this month at Glimmer Train:

 

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