Writer’s Desk: Go Easy On Yourself

The lure of the writer’s life can be hard to resist. Tabitha Blankenbiller writes movingly in Catapult about its attraction and the difficulties of giving up the dream. Here she describes the recognizable zeal that overtook her in her MFA program:

I devoured the foundational texts: Bird by Bird, The Liars’ Club, The Elements of Style. They’re what pushed me to write page after page each night no matter how hard my day job tried to wring the soul out of me. Each paragraph, each new essay draft, each exchange with my advisor was microscopically better than the one that had come before it. And the act of doing this work as ritual, as necessity, saved me. There was no longer a question of what I would do with my life…

She became a writer. She placed pieces in a wide array of respected publications (The Rumpus, Tin House) and eventually published a book. Which is more than most of us can say. But eventually things caught up with her. The never-ending hustle to get notice, to get an agent, to climb the ladder of literary notice, it all takes a toll, especially when you add the grind of everyday life to it.

Then she learned how to take a break.

I did not write for days, weeks, months at a time. The further I drifted from the epicenter of that world, the less it defined me. I sat with questions I wouldn’t have admitted before for fear of cursing myself: What if I never write another book? What if I only create what I want, when I feel compelled, for no other reason than I have something I have to say?…

And the world did not end.

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