Yesterday I was reading an old issue of The Writer magazine. I came across one of their classic archive articles often featured in the magazine. Their archives are filled with timeless advice for writers. I was inspired by this article so I thought I would pass on one tip.
The article was by Mona Simpson and was entitled, “13 Maxims for Novelists.” It first appeared in the May 1992 issue. Simpson opens the article by recounting a story of a magazine editor she befriended but nevertheless had recently rejected one of her articles. She was 24, yet she boldly asked him if he thought she had the talent to make it as a writer.
“He wrote back a shilly-shally kind of answer, mumbling something about decisions one has to make oneself,” she explained.
What did she learn from this experience? Her advice to us is golden. “He was a kind man. But no one should have the power to tell you what you can and cannot do,” she said. “So much of writing is a matter of grand leaps,” indicating that all an editor has to go on is your words at this point in your career. “He can’t imagine or predict what your imagination will be capable of in a year.”
From this experience, Simpson shared the first of her 13 maxims for novelists: “The decision to become an artist is one that must be made or recognized alone.”
This is great advice for all writers, especially new writers. Your success or failure has more to do with what you think of your writing than what one editor thinks. An editor measures your writing in a “moment in time.” He can only assess your article, not your potential. He judges only the depth of the piece before him, only you can judge your heart and the depth of your conviction to write—and keep writing—in your journey to master this elusive craft.
Simpson said it best: “…the artist declares himself.”
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