The Writing Life: Something from Mary

Just two brief things to relay, courtesy of novelist Mary Gaitskill, on the writing life.

Screen Shot 2014-05-06 at 3.03.35 PMI sat down with her not long ago (she’s a visiting professor this semester at Claremont McKenna College) and I’ve just now returned to my notes to see what she said. No surprise: She definitely didn’t disappoint.

The two comments that I want to share with you, my friends, are things that you probably already understand. Still, to hear them from a contemporary master is powerful. If you’ve been struggling with criticism or self-doubt, her two comments are most definitely for your ears.

The first, on how to handle negative feedback, suggests that everyone needs to be able to wear armor sometimes, but FYI: Make sure that you remember to remove it.

Be prepared for rejection. It took me six years before I finally sold something. You need to have a very thick skin. But not all the time. When you’re out in the world, wear that thick skin. But when you’re back home and you’re writing, you have to take it off.

The second point suggests that there’s actually a positive side to negative feedback. Who knew?

If you want to be a writer, you’re going to have to tolerate hearing all kinds of things said about you and your work. But that’s if you’re lucky. In most cases, what you may encounter is a towering wall of silence. Indifference is much harder.

Indifference — which is why I’m very glad to have a blog … and you, my friends.

Keep working. You’re almost there.




3 thoughts on “The Writing Life: Something from Mary

  1. Thanks for the mention, Nick! So true. Silence is the worst.

    I’m listening to the wind howl, right now. We’re working from a rental cottage in Bodega Bay this week while our son is in an outdoor education school nearby. I could get used to watching the waves roll in while I’m working. A doe and her fawn wandered past this afternoon and a bevy of quail skittered through the scrub this morning. Like I said, I could get used to this. Who needs the big city? 😀

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