This is for every writer who gets up early in the morning to write stories before going to work, for the writer who takes a boring job that pays barely enough to cover the rent ─ say night attendant in a parking garage next to a cement plant ─ in order to free up the mind, for those of you who stay up until 2 in the morning, sneak in an hour when the kids take a nap, or pull out the laptop while parked in a deserted supermarket lot at 3 in the morning because the baby finally falls asleep after driving him around the city for two hours (ask recent Pulitzer Prize winner Paul Harding about this). For the student who writes fiction in math class, the cubicle dweller who hides the computer screen when your supervisor rolls around, for the executive who closes her office door to write fiction and the emergency room doctor or nurse who’s too wired coming off the pm shift to do anything but write stories – this is for you.
Writing fiction is hard work, it’s always been hard work. You can work long and hard, months or years, and write an exciting, lasting novel or collection of stories, and you can work long and hard and produce an ordinary, boring piece of fiction. Either way it’s hard, so if you’re going to watch your life pass while trying to get published, don’t you think you should learn the craft of it and make the novel or short story collection you’re working on worth it?
Stories that last are those readers remember years later. So you can’t even remember the details of this or that book? So what. Who cares about all the details of plot? Who cares about recalling a character’s name? And who cares if anybody remembers your story? No one. No one cares because readers care only for their stories – how they recognize in your work the truths of their selves. Their losses, their aspirations, their fears. All from a safe place.
So if you’re going to write fiction, write fiction that lasts – tell readers their stories.
Apply the seat to the chair.