With only three installments left in this email series, I wanted to check in with you, our members, and learn what has worked for you in this series and what you would like to see more of in the future. What other subjects would you like to see explored or expanded on? How did this series aid—or how could it better aid—your transition from student to independent writer? Are there any outside resources that you have found and think would be helpful for others? Please respond to this email with your comments.
This month, the resources we’ve collected for you highlight the importance of staying focused, believing in the process, and riding the ups and downs of a career in writing. We're also covering how to maintain a balance between writing, making a living, and living a life so that your writing can continue to evolve.
In “How to Grow a Writing Life,” published in AWP’s The Writer’s Notebook, Leslie Pietrzyk takes stock of what got her through a couple of rocky years between the publication of her second book and her story collection The Angel on My Chest. During that time, she reckoned with what she refers to as her “dark night of the soul,” which took on many forms and led her to writing from a more intimate place.
In “The Last Word: The Slick Writer,” available in The Writer's Chronicle's Features Archive, Benjamin Percy explains how writing for the “slicks,” or glossy magazines like GQ or Vanity Fair, both funded and deepened his writing life:
"On assignment, I’ve wrestled John Irving, traveled to Tokyo, gone hang gliding, climbed one of the tallest old-growth trees in the country, and spent the night in it. I value these experiences purely for the adventure, yes, but I’m also eager for an education, for images and characters and emotions and plot points that might trigger something in my imagination and eventually feed their way into my novels or short stories or screenplays."
But how do we both foster this deepening in our writing and balance everything else? Kirsten Clodfelter explores how many MFA grads have made the transition into the workforce and not lost sight of fostering their passion in "Seeking the Work-Life-Writing Balance Post-MFA,” published in The Writer’s Notebook.
Sometimes what we need are reminders of our passion in order to reinvigorate the dedication the work requires. In “The ‘Keep’ Pile,” published at The Millions, Elise Juska recounts a dive into her past, spawned by her mother’s dedication to decluttering Juska’s childhood home. This allows her to reflect and realize that “[a] conviction is forming: I need to strike a new balance. Make more time for writing again. Pare down outside obligations, difficult as it will be.”
We will leave you this month with Ted Solotaroff’s in-depth discussion about the necessity of durability for writers who go on to lifelong literary careers. “Writing in the Cold,” originally published in 1987 in Granta and reprinted in AWP’s Writer’s Chronicle Features Archive, reflects on the promising young writers that Solotaroff published while editor of New American Review and for whom careers never materialized. He imagines that many were not prepared for the long, difficult road of a writing life and the inevitability and frequency of rejection:
"My own sense is that young fiction writers should separate the necessity to write fiction from what it is often confused with—the desire to publish it. This helps to keep the writer's mind where it belongs—on his own work—and where it doesn't—on the market, which is next to useless, and on writers who are succeeding, which is discouraging."
Join us next month when we turn our attention toward mentorship—how to locate the right mentor and how to foster a continued relationship.
Until next time,
Communications Coordinator & Membership Assistant