Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Why do you write?

For a long time, I wrote in an attempt to get outside approval.  My thinking went, "If an MFA program accepts me, then I'm good."  Or: "If I can get into Bread Loaf, then I'm good."  And so I wrote.

But I never applied.

Because what if they didn't accept me?  What if I wasn't good enough?  What if I'd never get a book published and I'd spend the rest of my life working in some job that made me want to take a dull knife to my vital organs?

It was all way too much pressure.  And, more importantly, it was ridiculous.  About this time, I also decided to give up on my snobbish anti-YA viewpoint (and I actually read some YA books.)  I wrote a new book, signed with an agent, got rejected en bloc by fancy NYC editors, and have since started a new book. I gave up on MFAs, writer's workshops, fellowships--any of those things that I had come to  decide would give me worth as a writer.  Because what was the point?  What did any of this really mean?  Who really gives a damn if I go to, say, Tin House Summer Writer's Workshop?

You're right, not that many people.

So I spent the time writing.  Gaining much-needed confidence in my own words.  In my voice.  In the way I (kinda) structure a plot.  Five years ago, I think this is what I needed most:  confidence.  Because despite rejection, I like what I write.  I know I am producing strong work.  And when I turn this book into my agent (soon, soon, soon...) I know it will be good.

This is not arrogance.  This is confidence.  And yes, there is a difference.  Confidence, I think, has an implied humility.  In my version, at least.  It allows me to say, "Oh, you didn't like it?  Okay, well you suck."  ETA: "Thanks for the criticism!"  Because I know what I want to write, and if that doesn't fall into what is currently hot (Dystopian, Paranormal, Exploding Bunnies).... well, fine.

So, I'm confident.  Blah, blah, blah.  For a long time, as I said, I wrote for validation.  And maybe I still do.  Because sometimes, in the back of my head, I'm thinking about all the people who have said I couldn't do something.  I'm putting them in my book.  As antagonists.*

Okay, I'm kidding.**  Now I write to get better.  To engage my creativity.  To write something that has the possibility of being, say, transformational.  Or maybe reaching a kid in a small, true way.  At the very least, to have somebody read it and say, "Oh, this kinda doesn't suck.  Maybe."

So I applied to some workshops.

And I got in.

To Tin House.

Which is a big deal. (To me)

And even though my submission wasn't YA, I didn't sacrifice my voice, my style, or my sense of humor when I wrote the story.  I put down the genius you, my blog readers, have come to expect.  And they accepted me.

But this time, it's not about the acceptance.  It's not about the validation.  It's the chance to work with some of the best writers in the country.  To learn.  To get better. 

And that's got me more excited than I can possibly explain.




  1. Yay! Congrats on getting in.

    Loved the post. I wrote a little about having confidence in your own work today too. Always a good thing to learn and pass on!

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  3. Brodi: Great minds, thinking alike.

    Pam: Thanks!

  4. Excited to hear how things go.

  5. Great post Bryan. And congrats on Tin House. That's fantastic!

  6. so so cool to get accepted by Tin House, but WAY WAY COOL to feel that confidence that comes from the knowledge that you're in this writing gig for more than acceptance! congratulations!

  7. This post exudes coolness.

    I like that you kinda admit you were wrong and are willing to share that with us.