Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Failure and the Writing Life

I began yesterday by listening to Diane Rehm interview Margaret Atwood.  You can too, by going here.  What a great age we live in!

I found some interesting ideas about failure in this article from The Guardian.  I foolishly assume that once someone is successful, the fears of failure go away.  These well-known writers reassure us that it isn't true.

I think the link takes you to the end of the piece, where Lionel Shriver reminds us that she wasn't always successful.  I had forgotten about her failed novels, the 6 before the one that got onto the best seller lists.  She also reminds us that each day can bring a fair amount of failure our way.

The essay by Margaret Atwood is marvelous, but you knew it would be.  She speculates that her failure to write one novel set her on a course that led to The Handmaid's Tale

Julian Barnes reminds us that even when people seem to have messed up their lives beyond redemption, there may be more to the picture.

I love the essay by Anne Enright, who reminds us:  "The zen of it is that success and failure are both an illusion, that these illusions will keep you from the desk, they will spoil your talent; they will eat away at your life and your sleep and the way you speak to the people you love."

What a wonderful way of saying that just because the illusion is an illusion, that doesn't mean that it doesn't affect us.

She concludes thusly:  "You want to meet people in their own heads – at least I do. I still have this big, stupid idea that if you are good enough and lucky enough you can make an object that insists on its own subjective truth, a personal thing, a book that shifts between its covers and will not stay easy on the page, a real novel, one that lives, talks, breathes, refuses to die. And in this, I am doomed to fail."

I confess that I haven't read her books.  But now I will.   Anyone who writes this beautifully about failure is someone whom I would trust my precious reader's time.

Seven writers writing about failure--it sounds depressing doesn't it?  Actually the collection of essays was immensely interesting--and a great comfort.

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