Monday, October 15, 2012

How Not to Become a Literary Dropout, Part 9

Another important thing to do in order to sustain a career as a writer is to carve out a space for yourself in the literary community. I know that sounds abstract, maybe even impossible or of questionable value, since it has little to do with literature as such. But carving out a space for yourself in the world of letters is a very tangible thing. To use a metaphor from my hometown of New York, it’s a bit like entering a crowded subway car where everyone is packed in tight. 

It may not look like there’s space in there, but you’ve got to make the space by your presence, by your urgency, and by your desire to be included.
Think about the accomplished writers you know. They have all made room for their voices in the literary world. How? There are many ways: by the moral authority of their words, by the honesty and accuracy of the testimony they provide as a writer, by their humor, by the width of their heart and the well of their compassion, by the brain power of their words and craft, by their knowledge of literature, by their ability to yank us into the stories they tell. Each writer has her or his own magical formula. But every writer you can think of whom you admire has done this—created a space or niche in the world of letters that is occupied only by that person. It’s a niche that remains empty until that writer walks into the room and claims it. It’s a niche that no one else can quite occupy after that writer passes away. You have to have the authority and the will to claim a space like that, a space that is your very own. To do that, you have to find the work that you were meant to write. I'll discuss that aspect of writing in my next blog.

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