A non-writer’s perspective on writing

Last week in class, we discussed David Foster Wallace’s “This Is Water” graduation speech about choices – choosing to feel that everything happens to make your day bad, or choosing to realize that other people are living their own lives independent of your wishes.

I remarked that I actually enjoy waiting in line because it gives me a chance to observe people and try to figure out their back stories and motivations – something I’m guessing most writers do as well. Every situation becomes a potential plot, every person a potential character.

Tonight in class we had to come up with a word for the professor to associate with our names: “an instrument you play, a place you’ve lived, something about you like writing.” When it was my turn, I said, “I guess I’ll be the writer.” The professor asked me what I wrote. “I’ve had about twenty short stories published, and last week I signed a contract for a novel.” Gasps of amazement and exclamations of “oh, wow” ensued, as well as a round of congratulations.

After class, the professor asked me about my novel; he’d always wanted to write one. Another classmate admitted it was on her bucket list too. She’d taken a writing class at one point, but couldn’t imagine actually writing – and editing – a whole novel.

For these people, as well as coworkers and friends I’ve talked to, it doesn’t matter that I don’t have an agent or a contract with a Big 6/5 publisher. What matters is that I wrote a novel. I finished it, polished it, and found a publisher who wants to help me share it with the world.

So if you want to write a novel, or learn Urdu, or fly a plane, do it. Don’t worry about finding a publisher, or getting to India, or solo circumnavigation of the Earth. Don’t worry about the people telling you that you can’t do it, or it’ll suck, or what’s the point?

Take pride in your accomplishment, in something you’ve done that 90% or more of people will never do despite wanting to.

What’s something you want to do but never have, and what’s stopping you from doing it?

1 Comment

  1. I completely agree. Most people outside of writers have no clue what the Big 6 is. I’ve been writing for pleasure for almost 20 years now, and I’ve known about publishing for less than a year.

    The first time I was published was over 10 years ago, yet still I’ve known about publishing for less than a year. All I knew is I won a contest and on top of the 100 dollars I got a copy of the book I was in. I was more excited about the 100 dollars.

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