Daily Archives: June 6, 2010

nice and insecure

I write an elder writer the following e-mail with the subject line I am an arrogant asshole, but I am really bad at it:

When I write I pretty much labor under a giant neon sign that reads YOU SUCK.  I spend a ridiculous amount of time and energy fretting about how awful my work is. Then I have a bunch of people read it and basically say, “it’s fine,” and I wonder, how can that be?  When I was a young spark, I thought that if I ever got good at this writing thing, the YOU SUCK sign would go away, yet here it remains unchanged.  Today I realized why that is: I am not holding up what I write against the work of my peers in workshops.  I am not even holding it up against most of the stuff that’s out on the market today.  I am holding it up against Gustave fucking Flaubert.  No wonder I always feel like crap!  Immediately I also realized what a hilariously arrogant thing that is to do, and then I thought–wait, don’t arrogant people think that they are awesome?  Yet I somehow figured out how to be arrogant while also feeling like shit all the time.  You have to admit that is a display of ineptitude bordering on the magnificent.

She replies:

“If there is an alarming object in this world it is a writer delighted with something he has just written.  There is no worse sign.”
–William Maxwell
I am puzzled:
But, does such a writer exist?  Trying to understand such a person is like trying to visualize Peace on Earth.  My brain just shuts down.
She tells it like it is:
Oh, I encounter plenty of them.  Except, of course, they’re not real writers.  I’ve seldom met a real writer delighted with anything to do with his work.  In other words, don’t stop comparing yourself to Flaubert.  That’s the goal; not acing it in a workshop.  And it’ll keep you nice and insecure.
I love her:
!!!

You are my new mommy.

Exeunt.