“This means that the time from my novel’s conception to its appearance on store shelves adds up to a staggering 10 years. An entire decade,” she continues. “Between, I graduated and spent a year on fellowship (during which I wrote a lot but only half of it was any good); then there were the teaching years (during which I wrote very little, hardly any of it good); then there were the Internet company years (during which I barely wrote at all).
“Stiltsville is in good company, which is reassuring. There are oodles of novels that took a decade or longer to write—including some famous examples, like Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Díaz spoke in interviews about his own decade of active non-accomplishment. He said that five years into the process, he decided to give up on the novel and start a graduate degree (in what, he didn’t say). He said his life improved: no more torture, no more fights with his fiance. Oh, Junot, I thought when I read this, I understand! Still, something pulled him back, and another five years passed, and then he was finally done.
“Writing is hard—writers say this all the time, and I think probably only other writers believe it. But it’s not nearly as hard, in my experience, as not writing.
“Everyone knows that the line between succeeding and failing can be pretty thin. But the fact that it took me so long haunts me less and less these days, and I find myself looking forward instead of back. After all, as every writer is aware, the ending of a story does most of the heavy lifting. It can make or break the whole thing.”
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