If you’re missing the action over at my Tumblr, here’s an anecdote that I posted today:
“Let me tell you a story. It started last summer, in a fit of boredom. I was an intern at a public affairs office; news was slow that day, so I had nothing to do but watch the phone. It wasn’t long before I started thinking about something besides public affairs.
Specifically, I had a brilliant idea for a story. So I wrote it down. In fact, I think I hand-wrote it. Naturally, I felt old-fashioned and sophisticated. By the time I left work that day, I was beaming. I felt like one of the most brilliant fiction writers of all time.
Throughout that summer, I kept writing that story. It ran to about 15 pages. It was about a freedom fighter who couldn’t adjust to changing times. Some friends who read it said they liked it. This only made me feel better. I started dreaming of greatness. Nobel Prizes for Literature, literary critics praising my talent, rabid readers comparing me to Flannery O’Connor- they all danced in my head.
Well, I went back to that short story last week. Another friend of mine asked to see it, so I sent it to him.
He hated it. He said that he couldn’t understand what was happening, and who was going where. He asked me humbly to know what the intended theme was! I had always been proud of my theme.
Reading that friend’s e-mail made me wince. Especially when I went back to my story and realized he was right. I had never asked myself why my freedom fighter walked out of a prison without any guards or fanfare after twenty years… there were a thousand details after that that didn’t make any sense.
Don’t make the same mistake, my fellow writers. Ask yourself tough questions. Be merciless. Never get delusions of grandeur. Do your job, try to do it well, and always be humble.”