INTERN has a frightful confession to make, and here it is:
When one of INTERN’s writer-friends publishes a beautifully-crafted short story, INTERN berates herself for not being more literary.
When one of her writer-friends gets a big deal for a paranormal romance, she harangues herself for not being more commercial.
When one of her writer-friends writes a novel in a weekend, she scolds herself for writing so slow.
When one of her writer-friends toils away at his masterpiece for six years, she rebukes herself for writing too fast.
When a sixteen-year old writer-friend lands a three-book deal, she disparages herself for not being young enough.
When a sixty-year old writer-friend publishes her first book, she harasses herself for not being patient enough.
When a writer-friend publishes a book of poems through a small press, she chastises herself for not being obscure enough.
When a writer-friend sells a million copies of a sci-fi monkey thriller, she reproaches herself for not being famous enough.
“Why are you so dumb? Everybody ELSE can write a bestselling sci-fi monkey thriller in a week.”
“Why are you so slow? In the time it took you to finish one good manuscript, everybody ELSE published like ten books.”
“Why aren’t you writing obscure chapbooks/bestselling paranormal romances/famous sci-fi monkey thrillers? Why are you wasting so much time writing those silly things you write?”
These are the voices in INTERN’s head. They are not there all the time, but they come out now and then with their absurd list of demands: “Why aren’t you doing this? Why aren’t you doing that? Why can’t you just get your act together and be a literary-commerical-speed-writing-slow-toiling-impressively-young-inspiringly-old-obscure-famous-poetic-romantic-paranormal-thrillery-sci-fi-monkey-writer?”
Despair! Gnashing of teeth! Rending of garments!
If INTERN is lucky, these voices are answered by another, smarter voice. This voice says, “Hang on. You don’t even read monkey thrillers. You don’t even LIKE monkey thrillers. Why are you giving yourself hell for not writing them?”
Does Laurie Halse Anderson lie awake at night scolding herself for not writing Harry Potter?
Does John Ashbery beat his head against the desk for not being Isaac Asimov?
Does Barbara Kingsolver feel a twinge of guilt and panic when one of her contemporaries publishes an academic treatise on Rastafarianism?
No! Or at least, INTERN hopes the answer is “no.” Because that would be insane.
You write what you write. You are what you are. And, no matter how anxious you may be to have everybody like you, you’re not going to get there by scrambling to become what you think the world wants. You will never be young enough/old enough/smart enough/dumb enough to please everybody, so you should really just do what you love and let the world take care of itself.
There. INTERN has made her frightful confession. She will never write a bestselling monkey-thriller or publish a mind-blowing trilogy at age twelve, and that’s just that.
Oddly enough, it doesn’t feel so frightful anymore.