The Writing Life

One of the best articles I read over break was Jay Neugeboren’s New York Review of Books essay (sorry, it’s subscribers only) on Michael Greenberg’s recent book “Beg, Borrow, Steal: A Writer’s Life”. In describing Greenberg’s attempt to support himself as a freelancer and fiction writer, in New York in the 1970s,  Neugeboren considers his own publication record:

[At a certain stage in my career] I found myself noting that I had myself accumulated, by my count, 576 rejections before I sold my first story, and more than two thousand rejections on eight unpublished books before I sold my first novel.  What keeps writers going, as it does Greenberg, is a sense that though, when rejected or ignored, we may feel such things intensely, we learn not to take them personally.

A damning or encouraging take on the profession, depending on your perspective!  Neugeboren then cites George Gissing’s variation on these sentiments, which was first published in The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft:

And why should any man who writes, even if he writes things immortal, nurse anger at the world’s neglect?  Who asked him to publish?  Who promised him a hearing?  Who has broken faith with him?  If my shoemaker turn me out an excellent pair of boots, and I, in some mood of cantankerous unreason, throw them back upon his hands, the man has just cause of complaint.  But your poem, your novel, who bargained with you for it?

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