Friday, November 04, 2011

Writer's Statement

The following was written a few years ago for an application I submitted to an institution which shall remain nameless...

I’ve traveled my path as a writer a little bit backwards and now come to this application from an unusual place. I studied literature in college, but at twenty I went off to begin writing seriously on my own. In the years since then I’ve released two novels and published numerous short stories in national literary magazines. Meanwhile I’ve worked various jobs, among them flower delivery driver, bookstore clerk, hospital purchasing agent, house-painter, newspaper delivery agent, and ranch caretaker. In all candor I’ve reached a very difficult moment in my writing and in my life. I hope to make it a turning point, and this is why I’m submitting this application.

I’ve done my best alone. I’ve strained my eyes with deep reading. I’ve labored, as Wallace Stegner advised, to take charge of my material, filling crates with drafts before each story or novel was finished. I’ve grown a trusty shell against the sidelong looks of those who would question the validity of my vocation. I’ve even accepted the relative insignificance of this work in the larger world (does the world need me to write another book?) and kept working anyhow.

What I have never done is plug into a community of mutual support. I’ve never benefited from – or had the opportunity to contribute to – the seriousness and shared aims of a body of advanced writers. Now, thanks to this painful absence in my life, I’ve realized late and hard how crucial such community is. I’ve been a sort of closet writer all these years, but it turns out you can’t do this thing all by yourself, alone in a room, forever.

I’ve known of [your institution’s] existence for a long time. What draws me to apply now is my wish to work alongside serious, developed writers like me, all of us primed to better our craft, undistracted and unashamed. After long seclusion I can’t possibly express how timely, how instrumental for my work, such an environment would be. Beyond the literary gods in books, nobody has ever assured me daily and at length that to live as I have – to view writing as serious work – is not shameful or socially suspect, but maybe legitimate and honest (yes, even when it doesn’t pay). Getting published is a form of assurance, but publication is not community. The world of print can be curiously cold, and after years and years at the desk sharing your work with the stern dead walls, you realize print alone will not warm your room. You realize you need a real and breathing community: a gang of believers to be inspired by, to inspire.

I wish to continue writing, but I can’t go it all alone anymore. I need to share myself. I’m ready.

My application was passed over and I persevered alone, managing somehow to complete a new novel and then turn my attention to Date of Disappearance, my illustrated limited edition book of stories now accumulating support on USA Projects.

Having launched this fundraiser, I’m amazed to see (in a form I never anticipated) that “gang of believers” cohering around me after all. Turns out they were there all the time. I thank each and every one of them for their support, their community, their belief. If you'd care to join them, the fundraiser runs until two weeks from today. Any support is deeply appreciated -- and can earn you unique gifts!