Confidence

NYU_Sp14

 

“. . . At the end of the two-year [MFA in creative writing] program, I read aloud from my thesis novel. People complimented me afterward, but no one laughed, not even a titter. It was an odd feeling. I tried to reassure myself; who needs laughs when you might one day be the author of “an unflinching and elegiac novel that echoes the work of (insert name of very important writer)”?

After graduation I shopped my thesis around. I sent it to agents with a more literary bent because I now considered myself a literary writer. I received a slew of rejections. One kind agent leveled with me and said my prose was competent but lacked personality. I wanted to write her back and say, “Wait. I thought that was a good thing?”

I was stymied for a long time, trying to figure out who I was as a writer. Eventually I did a rewrite, employing my breezy pre-M.F.A. style. I queried again, expecting rejection letters echoing my classmates and professors, saying, “Too precious” or “Seems glib.” Instead I got five offers of representation.

Two years later, I continue to write fast-paced, funny novels, and if my professors were to read my work now they’d probably say, “That chick-lit girl learned nothing.”

In fact, I gained something invaluable: Each writer enters into the craft with a specific strength. For me it was humor. For another it might be storytelling or the creation of beautiful sentences. As beginners we tend to rely too heavily on our strengths, and sometimes we have to minimize them in order to focus on our weaknesses. Along the way, different styles beckon. Eventually, though, we must embrace the gifts that enticed us into being writers in the first place. As one of the Southern characters in my novels might say, “It’s best to dance with the one who brung you.” “

From A Master’s in Chick Lit by Karin Gillespie – The New York Times April 26, 2014