Gone from the game

In case anyone was wondering, this is why I love her. One of the many reasons. I love that we feel the same way about what we do: this urge to tell a story so well that it takes you, heart and mind and body, so that you are inside the story and it’s inside you, and you become each other for a while. And perhaps when you put the words away, some small scrap of the story lives on inside you.

I love that Nicola speaks so fiercely of her work, and I love that I am feeling so fierce about mine these days. That I have given myself to it in a whole new way. And even so, even with all that re-found passion and the tidal wave of change it has brought into my life, I have still been struggling with a thing….

Here’s a story. Last year, when Dangerous Space was released, I had occasion to spend time in a bar with one of SF’s pre-eminent critics, someone whose conversation I’ve enjoyed over the years and whose professional skills I have always respected. This person told me they were reading the collection and considering it for review, but had noticed that most of the stories had been published previously. That’s right, I said.

Well, said the critic, that’s not much to show for 20 years, is it?

I answered politely that I hoped quality counted for more than quantity. But I was hurt, and I was rattled. And ultimately there was no review from this critic, so perhaps I gave the wrong answer.

And since then I have been chewing on this, trying to understand the helplessness and the anger and defensiveness that I felt. Who cares what this person thinks? Well, clearly I cared. And what I have come to believe is that it’s not about this person specifically — it’s about my certain knowledge that a lot of people feel this way about writing, or any other creative and/or professional pursuit. Many people will believe that the worth of my collection is diminished by the ratio of old to new work, and that my worth as a writer is best measured by my churn rate. That quality is only important in concert with quantity.

This is a game that I can never win. Many writers can — they produce good work very quickly, and all props and happiness to them. I think it’s a good thing they can do that. But why does this have to be a zero-sum game? If it’s good they do that, why must it therefore be bad that I do not?

Eleanor Roosevelt said No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. And she was right. But withdrawing that consent is not as easy as stamping one’s foot and saying Stop diminishing me right now! It is a process, and I have been processing.

And today I read Nicola’s post, and I felt the cumulative rush of all the moments of good work I have done in 20 years. Every time I wrote a sentence and felt it ring true. Every time I felt a character come a little more to life within me and on the page. Every time I’ve read the stories or the novel and bam, I’m back in worlds and characters that I love, fictions that vibrate with some of the deepest real things within me, things that I’ve managed to transmute into stories that make other people vibrate in turn.

And you know what? This is where I want to play. Consider me gone from the other fucking game. I will do my best to write everything I want to write, as best I can, and I hope I make a boatload of money. But none of that is the measure of my worth. My worth as a writer is measured by what I write. End of story.

As I’ve said recently, it’s huge for me to be a writer, and I am in charge of how I feel about that. And here’s how I feel: in 20 years, I have said things that only I can say, and other people have heard them, felt them, shared them. I have burned, and I still do. I have done well, and I still do. I have found my own way here, in my own time, and it’s been a marvel. I’m looking forward to doing better and burning harder the next 20 years. I intend, as Nicola does, to reach so far inside you that you’ll have to dig me out with a spoon.

And anyone who doesn’t think that’s much to show for 20 years can go fuck themselves.

31 thoughts on “Gone from the game”

  1. What a loser that critic is. I have to agree that many people’s evaluation of one’s work is attached to the whole body of work, but it’s a fucked up concept. I’ll take quality over quantity any day.

    I think you’ve got quite a lot to show for 20 years. You’ve been busy. Doing a variety of things. I won’t even talk about how we are much more than what we do, than what we produce for the world to see. I know you are talking about writing. But the writing and all of the other things you’ve done, have informed who you are; who you are informs the writing. And who you are is an amazing, beautiful, brilliant woman. A Great Writer and a Great Human Being.

    I’m glad this is where you want to play; I’m certainly better for having read your writing. It definitely gets inside me, and sometimes I don’t even want to use the spoon. I’ll keep it inside as long as possible.

    You and Nicola are in a game that is totally out of most writer’s league anyway.

    So I say, hell yes – fuck him and fuck them. You go!

  2. To hurt someone is terrible. To hurt someone creative is a form of terrorism. No matter how committed we are to what we create, it takes courage to put it out there. Those who can be are writers. Those who can’t are critics, even the best of them.

  3. I appreciate the kind words, thank you both.

    However, I am wary of having comments focus on what a rotten person this critic must be. That is not at all the case, and it is not at all the point of the post. It’s not about me versus the critic.

    I am very happy to have a discussion about why this kind of thing happens in the wider world, and how these sorts of opinions influence art and artists, but I don’t want a discussion about how great I am and how not great the critic is.

    I hope I’m not stepping on any toes. I don’t mean to reject the support at all — I’m grateful for it and value it highly. But I’m not hurt, and I don’t need validation. That’s part of being gone from the game.

  4. Yeah, well, I did immediately notice that comment I made about the critic sounding a little ummm, in poor choice. You made it clear that you didn’t think ill of him. Let me just say that it was his and his reader’s loss for not reviewing your collection. In that way he is a loser. If that doesn’t sound exactly like an apology, I guess it’s not. But it is something of a retraction.

    I did get the part about you being gone from the game and having resolved any defensiveness you may have felt earlier, but it was new to me and I had a gut reaction. Sorry about that.

    Here’s a little story for you. Recently, I was at a group art exhibit at a well established gallery in LA, walking around with a friend of mine who is a pro in the field (whose opinion I respect), and I commented on how so much of it looked like crap to me. (I seem to see these kinds of shows a lot lately.) She attempted to educate me about fine art. She kept telling me that one has to consider this work with the whole body of the artists’ work. Maybe their other stuff is really good and this fits in with that; it needs the other work to make sense, it really shouldn’t be evaluated on it’s own, etc. I considered this and looked around some more, but decided if it’s crap, it’ll still look like crap next to something good. And if it’s not meant to stand alone, why is it here? Am I supposed to think I’m too stupid to appreciate conceptual art? I’m not buying it. I’d rather see one truly good piece from an unknown and/or underappreciated artist than a roomful of boring, ugly stuff. Beauty seems to be a no-no these days in some of the visual arts. I don’t get that.

    Ok, it’s not a great story, but it illustrates to me the thinking of much of the art world. Just because someone has an accepted body of work, we’re supposed to think anything they produce is good. And if they don’t have a track record or history of work to show, it’s tough to get noticed no matter how good the work is.

    I look around and I see a lot of art that I find unpleasant to look at; it doesn’t move me, it bores me. I also see a lot of great stuff out there. The same is true for books – there’s a lot of crap and there’s a lot of good stuff out there as well.

    I just find it frustrating sometimes that so many things are judged based on a hundred different kinds of prejudices/marketing concerns rather than on merit.

    When I read DANGEROUS SPACE, I had read most of the stories in there before. At first I thought I might be disappointed about that. Instead I found that it didn’t take away from my enjoyment at all. In fact it was enhanced by reading them as a collection, in the order you chose, and in conjunction with the title story. I am reminded of the mechanism — the sum of the parts is greater than the whole. I think it fits in this case.

    Sorry to go on so long here.

    But I still say that you are a Great Writer and a Great Person. No apologies. I hope you can cope with that .

  5. It happens because the capitalistic mentality is so ingrained in our daily lives that even creative work has to be disposable. How do car manufacturers make their money? By convincing people that the vehicle they’ve got parked in their garage is no good anymore. Writers must put out new models out there every three years at the most in order to keep up with the waste/novelty cycle.

    Since I’ve done enough ranting on your blog today, I’ll leave you with the words Alessandro Baricco wrote for Shatzy Shell (it’s a bit long, but worth the read):

    “I end up thinking about rivers, and about the fact that people began to study them because it didn’t make sense, this business about how a river takes so long to reach the sea–that is, it chooses, deliberately, to make a lot of curves, instead of aiming directly at its goal, and you have to admit there’s something absurd, and this is precisely what people thought, there’s something absurd in all those curves, and so they started studying the matter, and what they discovered, incredibly, is that any river, it doesn’t matter where it is or how long, any river just any river, to get to the sea takes a route exactly three times as long as necessary, and all on account of curves, on account of the stratagem of curves, and not this river or that river but all rivers, as if it were required, a kind of rule that’s the same for all, which is unbelievable, really, nuts, but it was discovered with scientific certainty through studies of rivers, all rivers, it was discovered that they are not crazy, it is their nature as rivers which constrains them to the continuous, and even precise, winding, since all, and I mean all, navigate a route three times as long as necessary—three point one four times, to be exact, I swear, the famous Greek pi, I didn’t want to believe it, but it seems that it really is true, you take the distance from the sea, multiply it by pi, and you have the length of the route, which, I thought, is really great, because, I thought, there’s a rule for them, can it be that there isn’t four us–I mean, the least you can expect is that it’s more or less the same for us, and that all this sliding to one side and then the other, as if we were crazy or, worse, lost, is actually our way of going straight, scientifically exact and, so to speak, predetermined, although it undoubtedly resembles a random series of errors, or rethinkings, but only in appearance, because really it’s just our way of going where we have to go, the way that is specifically ours, our nature, so to speak…”
    – from the novel City

    (I sent this book to Nicola about a month ago, in case you want to read it all. It’s beautiful and strange and one of my favorite.)

  6. And you know what else? I loved hearing Nicola’s passion in her post. And it’s great to see how you have come around to where you are at with your passion and your writing in this post. I love seeing the evidence of your passion; I’ve been seeing it every since I first picked up SOLITAIRE and found your Virtual Pint. It shows in your writing and in Nicola’s writing in different ways, and in the end I have to believe that kind of passion rises to the top. Somehow it gets heard/seen/read and felt by others. It happens naturally. Because that is one of the best parts of what it is to be human (IMO). And I think we all hunger for it — are drawn to it like moths to a flame. It’s what being truly alive is about for me; sometimes my own flame burns more brightly than others, and I seek out ways to re-fuel. Sometimes I find that fuel in your writing.

    This kind of passion is what fuels great art. And it is contagious and inspirational, and we all are better for it.

    Thanks for sharing yours.

  7. Jennifer — no apologies necessary. I understand about gut reactions, and both your response and Barbara’s made me see that this post might elicit some. So I just wanted to clarify how I felt about that before other people’s guts came along.

    I have the same response to being “educated” about art — understanding a greater context may help me appreciate the art more, but it doesn’t change my emotional response. It doesn’t make me like it any better, for sure. It seems like most of these contexts are intellectual rather than emotional — here’s how I should think about this work, as opposed to feel.

    But you know, many people’s first line of response to art is intellectual. That’s cool. We need that too. However, it can be hard to agree on what should actually go on the walls (grin).

  8. Karina, what a great quote! Thanks for sharing it. Yes, I’ll put Barrico on the reading pile.

    I’m fond of saying (about writing, in particular) that it’s not a race. I almost said it in my post, but I thought I had made my point and there was no need for overkill (grin).

    But for me it is indeed more like a river. This is my life, my process, my path. It’s good for me. And after all these years I am finally — finally! — willing to accept that good for me is good enough. That I can’t do what I do without doing it the way I do it.

    The change for me now is that I no longer feel defensive about that. I don’t need to justify it. It is what it is. Other people may be racing, but I’m not. I’ll just be over here doing what I do.

    And I feel a great sense of clean, clear air around me. I don’t have to fight the disapproval or the expectations or the condescension anymore. Will they still happen? Sure. Will they affect my career? Well, clearly they have, and will continue to do so.

    Big deal. The only way I could control that is by running the race. But it turns out — wait for it — I don’t have to. No one can make me. I get to choose. And so I choose to withdraw my consent. I choose to be over here working or eating ice cream or breathing the clean air. The only thing that will suffer is my career, and it turns out I can live just fine with that. My work will have the space it needs. And it is the work that matters.

  9. Kelley, are you gone? Really? You’re not gone from all of us. We talk to you every day. That’s not being gone. Gone is quitting, giving up, y’know? Publishing is so entirely capricious, it only looks like gone. You have defined your own life. It’s more than telling a story. You are the story. I think you’re gearing up for your zenith.

  10. Your’e right. You can be a critic without killing creativity. Reviewing and analyzing are good too, especially to get a larger audience. However, I stick by my statement. If you say you were hurt, that’s not selfpity. If I say I was angry on your behalf, that’s not throwing the critics out with the bath water.

  11. So I’ve known you more most of that 20 years. I think the main reason why that stuck with you and that it hurt is because deep down you agree with it. Who amongst us doesn’t wish they had more to show for any time period? Of course you wish you had a big shelf full of your novels and collections but you don’t. Such is the tragedy of the present.

    I once had aspirations of writing for a living. What do I have published in that same 20 years? One published poem in Aboriginal SF, and one article in Mindsparks. You can count the transcripts I put out of some of my interviews. That’s also not much to show. I have notes for a novel I want to write. I started on them in 1991. I have thought about these characters every day for the last 5 years and almost every day for the last 17. I still haven’t written the goddamn book. I could start tomorrow, I could have started any day in the last two decades, and writing 2 hours a week, I probably could have finished the book years ago. I didn’t do it. I still want to, and I should, but I haven’t. That’s the tragedy of the present.

    I don’t think you’d make many or any choices differently if you had it to live over. You wouldn’t rush the stories to get more out, you wouldn’t or couldn’t choose to write rather than doing the things that kept the house from getting foreclosed, you wouldn’t choose fewer of the non-writing things that made your life enjoyable. You are at peace with your decisions, and so am I and that probably puts us in the upper percentile of people’s sense of serenity with how things have turned out.

    I’d like to see more of your writing because I’m a fan and I selfishly want more to read. I’ll get it when I get it, and I know it will be good. However I don’t begrudge you any decision you’ve made about how to prioritize your energy. Let’s just all live our life by the principle of least regrets. Let the rat race be damned.

  12. You were hurt, Kelley and how. And vulnerable and furious. Telling people to go fuck themselves. Perfect. This critic did you a huge favor. His opinion, and that’s all it was, forces you to decide what kind of writer you are, what’s important, keeps you apart from the race and define your own craft based on what is essential to you. It’s a definition you create every day and it’s your very own. How this could get any better for you, I surely do not know.

  13. @ Jan — I am gone from the game, not from writing and publishing and connecting with readers and everything here. My point is that I’ve finally realized that I do not have to accept those standards of worth in order to write and publish and connect with readers.

    Yep, I’m quitting the bullshit, for sure. I quit buying into any worldview that says my 20 years of work isn’t much to show. You bet I quit.

    But don’t you see, that’s the beauty of it. There’s nothing they can do now to keep me from doing whatever I want to do with my work, in my own time and my own way and to my own standards. They can say they won’t publish me. Oh well. There are a zillion other options. I’ll publish my damn self. Whatever. I get to choose.

    I will certainly continue to write, to submit my work for publication, to take the money (hah, I wish) and run. The difference is that if I am not published, or if people think I haven’t “done enough” with my work, or want to judge me by any of the standards that go along with that…. okay. Fine. I am done, done, done finding all the ways to persuade people that I really do live up to their standards if they only look at it sideways. Their standards don’t work for me anymore. I’m going to start worrying a lot more about living up to my standards.

    And as full of bravado as this may all sound, it is also risky in pure career terms. There is a very good chance that given the length of time between Solitaire and whatever my next novel is, that I will not be able to find a publisher. They’ll want to know, quite reasonably from their perspective, why they should invest in a writer who does not produce in a way that is consistent with their business model (as in, every 12 – 24 months). And instead of trying now to reassure them that I’ll work harder, I’ll make the commitment to produce, etc, I’ll be telling them that it’s up to them to decide if they want to publish this book. Period. And that we’ll all just have to see about whatever might happen next.

    I’m not giving up on a career as a writer. Far from it. What I am doing is saying that I am willing to accept that I may not have a career as a writer if I stop accepting the conventional professional definitions of what makes someone a good successful worthy writer.

  14. @ Barbara — Stick away (grin). I hope I made clear that I’m not asking you to change your opinion.

    It’s just important to me that people understand that the critic’s statement was not made in a spirit of meanness or contempt. The critic was expressing a widely-held professional opinion, making a statement of fact based on the common paradigm of the industry. And I had to come smack up against the reality that I don’t fit that paradigm. I’ll never be good enough by those standards. And yet I think I am good enough. And for years, for years, I thought the disconnect was in me. That there was some fault of discipline or will or attitude that I had to repair in order to be a real writer.

    And now I finally understand that if I don’t fit the paradigm, then I need a new paradigm. I cannot change the old one. That’s a fight that would take way too much time and energy that I could be spending writing, talking to Nicola, drinking wine with friends, having intense bi-coastal conference calls about the screenplay…

    Anyway, now I’m repeating myself. I appreciate the anger on my behalf. But I’m good 🙂

  15. When I first read this post I immediately became so incensed at that critic’s actions that I forgot about the beginning and end of Kelley’s post. In effect missing the whole point, I think. I hope my post didn’t lead anyone down that same path.

    After I cooled down, I read through it again and remembered that the critic story was just an example to help us see part of your/her process in arriving to this point. To me this post starts out about love and joy and passion and what it means to live that way – out loud, and it ends with it as well. It’s about giving up some part of the rat race involved in marketing one’s writing/art. Things that can work against the source of the joy/passion instead of feeding it.

    I beat my head against some similar issues sometimes, and although I am almost there, I still am further down the path than you are Kelley. So it helps me to hear about your process; now I realize that I’m actually further along than I thought I was. Thanks for the window, Kelley.

    I think there is too much truth in what Thoreau said about the masses of people leading lives of quiet desperation. Seems to me one big reason for that is that they are not willing to take the kinds of risks that Kelley (and Nicola) have/are taking.

  16. @ Dave — I did agree with it. That’s why it hurt.

    And now I don’t agree with it anymore. Truly. The irony of the whole thing is that I’ve worked harder on writing and produced more in the last two years than ever in my life before. Most of it people can’t “see” because it’s sixty drafts of a screenplay (many of them wildly different from the last). But it’s been great. And I hope it continues, and I hope that I surprise the hell out of everyone, especially me, with the amazingness of the results.

    What I’m checking out of is not the desire to have that shelf of novels or DVDs. What I’m checking out of, as you say, is the regret that I don’t have it yet. And I’m checking out of measuring my self-worth by what I haven’t done. I think I’d like to measure it by what I have done for a while. I think I’d like to stop thinking of the present as a tragedy of work undone and just start thinking of it as the present.

    I won’t tell you how to feel about your interview work or your writing. I know how much I value all the things you’ve done, but the new paradigm that I’m proposing is that we all get to decide for ourselves whether it’s meaningful.

    However, as I’m learning today, it also means that other people get to tell us when it’s meaningful to them. So to you, my friend, I love what you do. And to everyone who has commented, thank you so much for entering into this conversation with me.

  17. @ Anonymous — from my perspective, you are absolutely right in everything you say. This person gave me the gift of opening a door, and I am grateful that I am finally able to walk through it to a better place for me.

    How can it get better? Well, we’ll see. 🙂

  18. The question I would have for that critic (and if he is indeed worthy of respect, one might get an honest answer) is: what would count as sufficient for 20 years of work? What would be “enough”?

    You know my track record. You seem to have made far more impact than I (though in some ways I have no way to tell) with quantitatively less work. Therefore, I would conclude that your attitude was correct in the response you gave him.

    But, really—what would come up to the bar and under what conditions? Seems it would necessarily be arbitrary as hell.

  19. The critic is absolutely worthy of respect, and is someone I look forward to more drinks and conversation with if we find ourselves in the same place.

    The thing is, Mark, that measuring impact versus output, or comparing publishers, or whatever, is part of that game. And I’m outta there. I’m not keeping score on impact or anything else.

    You’re being a bit disingenuous, I think. You know as well as I do where the bar is. It is a combination of quantity of published output, rate of output, professional-level prose, and a certain level of recognition in the field (as in, not having to remind editors of who you are, having people look at your name badge at conventions and say oh wow, I read your book, getting solicitations from editors of anthologies, etc.).

    I cannot speak for the critic, but I can imagine that critics in the field would add a certain overall quality standard — stories that, as you say, have “impact.” But that’s by no means necessary to establish one as a “real professional writer” in SF or anywhere else.

    So no, I don’t actually think it’s arbitrary. I think we all know what it is, and that’s why it was possible in the first place for me to be hurt by the certain knowledge that I wasn’t measuring up.

  20. PS to all — I’m fascinated that many of you use “he” and “his” to talk about the critic, when I haven’t assigned any pronouns to the critic as far as I can see. What’s that about?

  21. For me I think it’s mostly pure laziness and un-pc-ness. I’m of an age when it was taught that it was proper grammatically to use the ‘he’ pronoun when gender was unspecified. It’s a habit that I am aware of and should pay more attention to correcting. Still I must admit, I may have also assumed that someone, whom I immediately disliked as being rather pompous, was male. Lazy, sexist, and judgmental all at once. Nice. (g) I may have surpassed that critic in my carelessness.

  22. I didn’t assume the critic was male. Nor that they were being mean when they decided not to review DS. I’m guessing critics are under just as much (if not more) stress as writers are these days. You can go read Pat Holt for confirmation. Who wants to take unnecessary risks? (I do! I do! But I get off on it, perhaps too much and to my own detriment.) Publishing and print media are on shaky grounds as it is. Oh, and think about the film Ratatouille. The Most Revered Critic lost all his credibility because he gave the rat-chef a rave review and people didn’t agree. Ok, that’s too extreme, but still.

    It is indeed a game that’s hard to win, especially now that the rules are being re-evaluated on almost every level. I agree with Dave when he says it’s a matter of having no regrets about our individual process as artists and human beings, being okay with the river part of us that’s in love with taking curves and detours to investigate what it means to be alive and on a journey.

  23. This discussion puts me in mind of the career of Ted Chiang. His career is of similar length to yours, but his output in published words is significantly lower, However, two or three of his stories would make the list of my 20 favorite of all time. His “Story of Your LIfe” would be #1. I’d love to see more of his work, but I can’t argue with the quality of what does come out. He’s a pinch hitter who only gets one at bat a season but hits a home run nine out of ten times.

  24. I would like to proudly point that I did not assign a gender pronoun to the critic. I’m not sure that was on purpose though. Just like to brag!

  25. Hey Karina, thanks for the link to Pat Holt. I used to subscribe to her newsletter but somehow it fell off the list — am very glad to reconnect with her writing.

  26. “Cautious, careful people, always casting about to preserve their reputations… can never effect a reform.”
    – – Susan B. Anthony

    I ran across this quote today and I thought of you (and Nicola).

  27. —-You’re being a bit disingenuous, I think. You know as well as I do where the bar is. It is a combination of quantity of published output, rate of output, professional-level prose, and a certain level of recognition in the field (as in, not having to remind editors of who you are, having people look at your name badge at conventions and say oh wow, I read your book, getting solicitations from editors of anthologies, etc.).—–

    I had to think about this a bit before responding. One of the things I’ve always valued about you (and Nicola) is your ability to see through b.s. and then convey what you do see clearly. That you’ve done that for me often (both of you) is priceless.

    So, am I being a bit disingenuous? Probably. Seeking validation is something I’ve been engaged in apparently all my life. It’s part of what drives me. Which means sometimes I’ve accepted other standards than my own.

    There are two bars. The most meaningful one is the effect your work has on ONE person. Because we all receive and react inside our skulls, alone, and at the moment of encounter, that’s all that matters. On that count, none of has anything to feel unsuccessful about.

    The second bar comes with the enterprise, and that is that we’re engaged in performance. For that you need an audience. And with each new member of the audience comes a bit more energy to keep working. That bar, though, I think, moves.

    But that bar is a game. And it’s a false standard. It’s what leads writers to write the same book over and over again, bands to record the same album over and over again, actors to play the same role over and over again, instead of trying something new and richer. Because the artist then fears losing that audience (which is actually pretty unlikely) because the Other People making book on the artist’s work keep telling the artist that.

    It’s a seductive game, though, because when it’s hitting on all eight cylinders, so to speak, it feels so good. For a while.

    So, yeah, I was being a bit disingenuous (not entirely intentionally) because I know—as do you—what ought to matter most. I’d still ask that question of the critic to see if the critic understood that, too.

    But thanks (once again) for backing me up and making me look at something a little closer. I’m more encouraged today than yesterday.

  28. I certainly have no wish to discourage you, my friend. And my comment about being disingenuous was simply directed at your positing that the bar was an arbitrary target, that possibly the critic wouldn’t be able to define it.

    The thing is, I know when I meet someone who is a “real writer” by the common professional standards, and I know when I meet someone who isn’t. Clarion students are writers, but in the professional realm they are not yet real writers until they publish, you know? Which is why we/they all get so twisted up when The Editor comes to teach, even if The Editor has the coaching skills of an oyster. Because they are already in that game. They are already keeping score. People who have written a thousand stories that they have never submitted are not “real writers” by the standards of the game, no matter the quality of the prose. That’s all I was trying to get at — that there is an accepted set of standards that we’ve all absorbed even if we don’t generally talk about them.

    And then writers, being an insecure lot, start jostling to see who is most real, most important. Blech.

    And on it goes.

    This is a tricky conversation for me in general (not just with you, but the whole thing). I feel clear and passionate about this discovery, this decision I’ve made. It is absolutely right for me. But I am also clear that being right for me does not make it right for everyone — maybe anyone — else. I’m not trying to convert or persuade any other writer out there to embrace it. My admiration and respect for other writers, including you, is not based on anything except my appreciation for your work and my respect for the sweat and courage it takes to do it.

    What ought to matter most? Where is our success? There is no one answer. It’s for each of us to decide. There are as many paths as there are people.

  29. I love this post, Kelley. In the time it took me to read it, you have helped me find my way back to the center of what is important. I live in a city where if you are not discovering the cure for cancer or a CEO of a sexy tech co. or winner of the Pulitzer prize–(believe it or not) you have nothing to offer. Recently, I felt this intensely when I was invited to tea where one woman had 2 phds and the other had worked in a posh museum in London. Then I said: ‘I’m a writer’ and felt how they dismissed me in about thirty seconds. I have been feeling angry and sad for days, then I read this post. Thank God you are you and thank God you are writing about this stuff.

    Writing one true sentence, one scene that transcends language is beyond any plague or shiny bright button to pop. Oh and there is the secret smile we wear of living a creative life without limits, without judgments.

  30. Ah, Jan, I’m sorry to hear this happened to you. People can be so nasty about so many stupid things. And I’m glad, glad, glad to hear that you have that secret smile alive inside you.

    It is such a cliche, but true — living well is the best revenge. Keep on smiling, sister.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.