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I have a confession to make. Within Word, I have a folder labelled "Other People's Writing." It holds things like favorite short stories written by Tessa Gratton, stories people have asked me to critique (so I can find them), and things that really spoke to me found from a variety of places. Some of them are poems, some of them are blog posts, and some of them are articles.

And thus it was that I remembered I had a piece stashed in that folder that discussed the idea of commitment, maybe slightly differently than my last two posts. I won't post the whole article here, since you can go straight to Glimmer Train and read it yourself, but it's a piece called "All In" by Benjamin Percy. Here's brief excerpt.

I used to be the same way, nervously rationing out my ideas.

Tony Early (the author of Jim the Boy) cured me of that. Years ago, I was talking to him about his story, one of my favorite stories, "The Prophet from Jupiter." He said that he put everything he had into it. "I was tired of holding back," he said. His stories up to that point, he felt, had been good. But he wanted to write something truly great, an earth-shaker. So he put every last drop of himself, all of his best material, into a single story.

And it worked. "Prophet" appeared in Harper's, scored a National Magazine Award, and to this day is widely taught and anthologized.

There was a price. After he finished the story, he lay on the couch feeling emptied, carved-out, certain he would never write anything again. This lasted for two weeks. And then the well filled back up.

I encourage you all to read the full article.

Kiva - loans that change lives

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( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 29th, 2011 11:09 pm (UTC)
thank you for this!
and happy new year!

sometimes Real Life Crap takes a lot of time & energy but I have no doubt that you will find your way back to Writing in 2012...

Dec. 29th, 2011 11:42 pm (UTC)
I'm already working on it - and hoping to get back to regular blogging. So far, so good.
Dec. 30th, 2011 12:01 am (UTC)
Fantastic article! Makes me want to immediately take off the brakes & let myself get all-in to this WIP! Thanks, Kelly!
Dec. 30th, 2011 01:56 am (UTC)
I'm sure that your work will lead to good thing. Love the kitty by the topiary in your icon!
Dec. 30th, 2011 02:14 am (UTC)
Thanks, Kelly! And - I didn't even notice Esmerelda was there when I snapped the picture! She is a cutie! Also the shyest of my kitties. So, her hiding behind the topiary is typical Ez!
Dec. 30th, 2011 02:40 pm (UTC)
She made me think of my Mojo, who we lost earlier this year. Such a wonderful kitty.
Dec. 30th, 2011 01:18 am (UTC)
Glad to see all the signs of commitment. And I do try to keep this at least in mind, the idea of spilling everything you've got. There is always more.
Dec. 30th, 2011 01:59 am (UTC)
Even if there isn't more now, there will be. That's the important take-home for me.

Rather in the same way that my decisions this year have been premised on the exchange from Shakespeare in Love:

Philip Henslowe: Mr. Fennyman, allow me to explain about the theatre business. The natural condition is one of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster.

Hugh Fennyman: So what do we do?

Philip Henslowe: Nothing. Strangely enough, it all turns out well.

Hugh Fennyman: How?

Philip Henslowe: I don't know. It's a mystery.

I suppose it's akin to the "leap and the net will appear" philosophy.
(Deleted comment)
Dec. 30th, 2011 02:30 pm (UTC)
Oh, I agree. If his point was that going all in gets you material rewards, then I don't buy it either. I read it as saying that when one puts everything they have into it, their work improves tremendously, and that writing from a miserly place or one where you're too scared to really put it all out there will hold you back.
Dec. 30th, 2011 06:45 pm (UTC)
Mine says "Other Peoples Words"...

Thanks for the link. :)
Dec. 30th, 2011 10:29 pm (UTC)
You're welcome - and I'm glad to know I'm not the only one with such a file!
Dec. 30th, 2011 11:13 pm (UTC)
Benjamin Percy is one of my favorite writers on process and the rest of it. Thanks for pointing this article out. I never miss his articles in Poets & Writers, but since this was elsewhere, it was new to me.
Dec. 31st, 2011 03:03 am (UTC)
After I got a book rejected big time, and yet I still had a contract to fulfill and only a few months to do it in, I threw every idea in that I could. Stuff I might have felt I should ration out because who knows when I would get ideas that good again.

But the well did fill back up again.

I sat next to Benjamin Percy last year at an author event. He has a very deep voice and great sideburns.
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )

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