So how is this for an opener: Here is my blog post called Writing in the Cold about my video called Writing in the Cold, which is about an essay by Ted Solotaroff called “Writing in the Cold”, which was published in Granta in 1985. The essay was something one of my MFA mentors (Leonard Chang, www.leonardchang.com) wisely gave to us as we prepared to go out into the scary world outside of the MFA bubble.
This essay is more than a quarter century old and not one word of it feels dated (not a single reference to Journey or Boy George or Rubik’s cubes, for example). It’s tricky, being a writer. There are many aspects to this trickiness, but the aspect that I find most interesting (and that Solotaroff focuses on) is the need to possess a durability throughout all the rejection, uncertainty, and disappointment you will undoubtedly encounter. It’s more than just an ability to tolerate these things, it’s also an ability to take advantage of them, use them to learn something new. This essay is a great reminder not to give up on the whole writing process. I’ve known so many writers better and smarter than me that have quit. I keep wondering why I’m still around. I mean, I’m still an unknown writer, but I’m also still standing. It’s not brilliance, it’s not an innate talent, it’s not speed, it’s not confidence. I consider myself a slow learner, a slow reader, and I’m about as insecure as they come. But maybe there’s a durability in there too.
I’ll be honest with you, my piddly little video doesn’t even scrape the surface of this great essay. (Plus, I apologize for comparing the writing life to a game of Frogger.)
Unfortunately, the essay is hard to find. At least I can’t find any legal ways to point you to it online. You can buy the issue from Granta’s website. And how about this: I’ll send my extra copy of this issue of Granta (for free!) to a random commenter a week from when this post goes live. (Don’t post your address– I’ll get in touch with you…) Why? Just because I think it’s a kick-ass essay.
Regardless of whether or not you read the essay or watch my second-rate homage to this essay, the basic message can be summed up in his last sentence: “The life of published… writers is most often the exchange of one level of rejection, uncertainty and disappointment for another, and throughout, they need the same durable, patient conviction that got them published in the first place.”
What about you? Why are you still standing?