Writing Intimidation/3/31/14

In Writing on March 19, 2014 at 2:43 pm

Today I bring up a subject that has only recently begun affecting me- what I call ‘writing intimidation’. I’ve been working furiously as of late  on what I call my ‘real’ writing (as opposed to my blog posts – which I enjoy writing immensely, but which seem less ‘real’- as in ‘marketable’ because they have already been released into the wild, so to speak).

I find that my attention is being drawn almost exclusively, to other writer’s credentials. The kind of credentials I simply don’t have. Should I be worried? Or should I just plod along with blinders on- the kind that blocks me from noticing that many writers have gone to expensive and exclusive schools, worked under the tutelage of famous authors, have MFA’s and teaching gigs at the Iowa Writers Program (teaching! I can’t even explain what I’m doing, let alone teach it! And isn’t teaching a whole separate degree?)

Pulling random books from my overflowing bookshelves (and book piles) I open to the writer credits,usually on the back cover, and inevitably it’s a ‘who’s who’ and ‘what’s what’ of accomplishment. Most of it is scholarly and/or massive sales-worthy. Here are some  examples: Augusten Burroughs is the New York Times Bestselling author…..David Sedaris’ half dozen books have been translated into twenty-five languages and his essays appear in the New Yorker and he can be heard on NPR’s ‘This American Life’…Barbara Kingsolver earned a graduate degree in biology before becoming a full-time writer…H.G. Bissinger  received the Pulitzer Prize and went to Harvard University….Wendy Lesser is the founder and editor of The Threepenny Review, which has been called “one of the most original literary magazines not only in the U.S. but also on the entire planet.”  These are a mere smattering of the applause from the books on my shelves.

I recently bought Ann Patchett’s long read on the craft of writing, (‘The Getaway Car’) and was somewhat alarmed that much of her journey centered on writing programs, scholarships and chance meetings and classes with certain teachers (often famous writers) without which she says she surely would never have become a ‘good’ writer. Not exactly inspiring.

It leaves me wondering: Is being a writer without an expensive Ivy League degree similar to teaching yourself to be a doctor over the internet? Is it that far fetched?

Reading interviews with authors is even more intimidating. Take the one I read this morning, a discussion with Gina Frangello, author of the book ‘A Life In Men’ where she speaks of her path to being a writer -(please allow me to paraphrase.)

“My husband had his first real job post-doc at the University of Chicago. He suggested I go back to school (note: she was already a licensed therapist) and get a Master’s in Creative Writing. I was in The Program For Writers to get my MFA and started working at a literary magazine and got a TA-ship. I ended up in the Ph.D program. I started teaching. I wrote a novel”

Two questions: What does that even mean and what chance in the world is there for an uneducated writer? My degree consists of 30 credits towards an Associates in Mass Communications at a community college, years ago. Nothing concrete, and absolutely nothing impressive. Since then I’ve been writing in private, and taken  Creative Writing courses here and there (mostly to check and see if there were other ‘crazies’ out there, writing away- and I’m happy to report: yes, there are!)

So,  how do writers such as myself exude confidence in the eye of such stellar competition?

Perhaps the light at the end of the tunnel is that as writers- true writers who feel compelled to write- there will be no such thing as giving up. Because to not write would be to not breathe, and in turn we would die. Write or Die, my friends…..Write or Die. Because even if we never ‘make it’ as writers, many of us will die trying.

I can’t speak for you, but I know that I have never regretted the trying, though there are times when it seems like such a ridiculous leap of faith, like something only a naive child would ever take seriously-especially if she is a non-graduate of Flaunty Von-Snootyville (jealous, much?), where scholars go to learn and ivy covers the walls. And one can find solace in the fact that there’s a huge difference between being intimidated and being defeated.

What do you think?

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