Writing a Novel
Maggie O Farrell
There is nothing so dangerous to good writing as having too much time, too much liberty. You need the filtration system of being kept from your work. You need to reach the keyboard in a state of hunger, of desperation. You need to sit down at your desk with a desire to unleash all that you have been mulling over, all those solutions and permutations and reframings.
"About a year ago, I realized this, and resolved three things: (1) that my work had profound value and deserved monetary compensation, (2) that I could not trust the existing economic models to give me that compensation, and (3) I had to find new ones."
The data were revealing. First and foremost, of all the things I’d ever submitted to or applied for, I’d gotten only 3 percent of them. That’s a 97 percent rejection rate. That means I got 32 rejections for every acceptance. The two works for which I’m most well-known, the play “What Every Girl Should Know” and the novel “The Girl in the Road,”had each been rejected 67 times. In fact, the same week we sold “The Girl in the Road” to Crown, I was rejected from the third of three MFA Creative Writing programs I’d applied to.
“The Girl in the Road” came out in May, and it’s been incredibly well–received. But my anti-resumé reminds me that rejection will always be a part of my career, as in any career, as in anything worth doing. And there are no successful artists I know for whom this isn’t also the case. They love their work. That love buoys them through inevitable and even overwhelming rejection. So I promised myself that, no matter how “The Girl in the Road” was received, I’d start the next book right away. Now I’m 20,000 words in and reminded that just the daily practice of sitting and writing is still the best part. And, like I found that no amount of failure would change that, I hope that no amount of success will, either.
http://thefanzine.com/vanity-is-the-enemy-an-interview-with-ottessa-moshfegh/ I’m writing for all of you fucking assholes, and I need to figure out a way to do that. And I also think, don’t flatter yourself, I published a book before Eileen. It was called McGlue. I got two thousand dollars for it, almost nobody fucking read it, and it’s so much better than Eileen. But nobody wants to talk about McGlue because it’s too far away from the commercial crap that they’re used to reading. So I knew I needed to write something that was going to be reminiscent of the crap that people are used to, so it wasn’t going to threaten them so much. I needed a way into the mainstream, because, you know what? How do you expect me to make a living?! I’m not going to be making cappuccinos. I’m fucking brilliant! I don’t know what people expect me to do. I needed to be proactive. And Eileen ended up being a very important book for me. It taught me a lot and it allowed me to have a lot of conversations with people about repression, and the repressed world was exactly what I was entering as an author so I can make it better. And now I just want to be like, fuck that. I’m so happy this collection is coming out, because I feel like people can laugh when they read it, men can read it and not feel estranged. I’m incredibly cynical about the public.
No shit. Spoiler alert: this is the new high water mark for short stories. You’ve created the bridge from masters of the past to this new pivotal moment.
I don’t need everybody to love me; that’s been established. But I’m really sensitive internally and it’s hard to say difficult things and then feel the energetic backlash without it being completely depressing. Because I’m not saying anything to be mean. I just want people to wake up. I’m heartbroken by how brainwashed and enslaved my fellow humans are. It’s heartbreaking.