Writer’s Desk: Don’t Get Pushed Around

Fran Lebowitz (Christopher Macsurak)

Back when New York had a downtown art scene to be proud of, Fran Lebowitz was one of its singular denizens and chroniclers. When she started branching out from writing on movies or what have you for Andy Warhol’s Interview, she ran into some difficulties. But she didn’t let that stop her.

Take this anecdote from an interview she gave to Interview (say it five times fast) about the piece on AIDS she wrote for the New York Times in 1987:

It was ’87. I remember it because when I started publishing, I got offers to write for big magazines. Interview, at the time, six people read it, believe me. But I would always say, “Well, it’s not that I don’t want to write for these big magazines, but you can’t edit it.” And they would always say, “What are you talking about?” And then they would name thousands of geniuses who willingly submitted to being edited. And I said, “Well, I don’t really care. You can’t do it.”

This isn’t to sat that we don’t need editors. Pretty much all of us do. But there are times in every writer’s life when they need to stand their ground and just say, No. Even if that means the piece gets canned.

Sometimes not being published is worth it

Writer’s Corner: Your Life is Always Good Material

(Steve Lyon)
(photo by Steve Lyon)

When I was teaching — I taught for a while — my students would write as if they were raised by wolves. Or raised on the streets. They were middle-class kids and they were ashamed of their background. They felt like unless they grew up in poverty, they had nothing to write about. Which was interesting because I had always thought that poor people were the ones who were ashamed. But it’s not. It’s middle-class people who are ashamed of their lives. And it doesn’t really matter what your life was like, you can write about anything. It’s just the writing of it that is the challenge. I felt sorry for these kids, that they thought that their whole past was absolutely worthless because it was less than remarkable.

David Sedaris, January Magazine, June 2000

Remember, there’s a lot of stories out there, yours included. Ultimately, it’s the telling that matters.