Dear Literary Ladies

What’s scarier, failure or success?

By | On Jun 26, 2015 | Comments (0)

Dear Literary Ladies,
Sometimes I wonder what I’m more afraid of—failure, or success? In its own way, the prospect of success seems daunting. And I know I’m not alone. Did any of you find the idea of actually succeeding as scary and incomprehensible as I do?

I never expected any sort of success with [To Kill a] Mockingbird. I didn’t expect the book to sell in the first place. I was hoping for a quick and merciful death at the hands of reviewers, but at the same time I sort of hoped that maybe someone would like it enough to give me encouragement. Public encouragement. I hoped for a little, as I said, but I got rather a whole lot, and in some ways this was just about as frightening as the quick, merciful death I’d expected.

—Harper Lee, from a 1964 interview

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Isn’t there an easy road to writing success?

By | On Jun 07, 2015 | Comments (0)

Dear Literary Ladies,
Like most writers, I want to be published, and truth be told, I’d love to be successful. But I’ve heard so many stories of long years of toil, false starts, and tons of rejection. Isn’t there an easier way? I’d prefer to become an overnight success, earn fame and fortune, and avoid all the struggle.

I can only say to you as I do to the many young writers who ask for advice—There is no easy road to successful authorship; it has to be earned by long and patient labor, many disappointments, uncertainties and trials. Success is often a lucky accident, coming to those who may not deserve it, while others who do have to wait & hope till they have earned it. This is the best sort and the most enduring.

I worked for twenty years poorly paid, little known, and quite without any ambition but to eke out a living, as I chose to support myself and begin to do it at sixteen . . . “Little Women” was written when I was ill, and to prove that I could not write books for girls. The publisher thought it flat, so did I, and neither hoped much for or from it. We found out our mistake, and since then, though I do not enjoy writing “moral tales” for the young, I do it because it pays well.

But the success I value most was making my dear mother happy in her last years & taking care of my family. The rest soon grows wearisome & seems very poor beside the comfort of being an early Providence to those we love.

—Louisa May Alcott, from a letter, 1878

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Am I talented enough to be a successful writer?

By | On May 31, 2015 | Comments (0)

Dear Literary Ladies,
Sometimes I wonder if I really have what it takes to be a successful writer. The desire is definitely there, but I’m not sure I have the talent. For those of us who don’t feel particularly “gifted,” what hope is there? Read More→

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Why am I imitating authors I admire?

By | On May 24, 2015 | Comments (0)

Dear Literary Ladies,
Perhaps because I haven’t learned to trust my own voice, I sometimes find after I’ve written something, that it’s almost an homage to a writer I admire, and not very well done at that. Judging from my writers’ group, I know I’m not alone in this unconscious copying, but will I ever stop?

When you begin to write, you are usually in the throes of admiration for some writer, and whether you will or no, you cannot help copying their style. Often it is not a style that suits you, and so you write badly. But as time goes on you are less influenced by admiration. Read More→

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How can I write, when I have so little time?

By | On May 18, 2015 | Comments (0)

Dear Literary Ladies,
I always thought that one needed great swathes of time to get any writing done. Now I hear that some esteemed authors worked in short bursts and still produced an enormous amount of brilliant work. I want to hear from one of you. How did you do it, and what did you do with the rest of your time?

I work from two and a half to three hours a day. I don’t hold myself to longer hours; if I did, I wouldn’t gain by it. The only reason I write is because it interests me more than any other activity I’ve ever found. I like riding, going to operas and concerts, travel in the west; but on the whole writing interests me more than anything else. Read More→

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