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Writing, Mostly

Jia Tolentino #FindTheGirlsOnTheNegatives

Jia Tolentino #FindTheGirlsOnTheNegatives

I wish I knew what I was doing.

I’ve been publishing for sixteen years now (writing for even longer?!), and still don’t know. What the hell is this? Writing is the dumbest job. Are there performance reviews? Promotions? Bonuses? Vacation ti– aahahahaa.


A long time ago, a friend said “I will not walk into the ocean today.”

I turned that into a story. (Eventually my friend did walk into the ocean — not all stories end happily.)

I will not walk into the ocean today.

The ocean, full of dark and sea monsters, always beckons. I wish I knew what I was doing.


Sixteen years is a long time. It’ll probably go on a bit longer, right? Sixteen years — almost 100 short stories. Some novel-shaped stories. Nothing that’s done…anything, really.

A story of mine ended up on a ballot once. It’s one of the best stories I’ve ever written, about distance and longing and about having a thing and also not having a thing, and how that’s beautiful in its own right.

It’s kind of like writing, right? Having a thing, and not.

Existing in a space where you do the work, but few take notice. I can sell short stories like they’re hotcakes, but after that… Silence all the way down.


How to keep writing when no one gives a shit?


It’s award season, so there are Huge Lists about Awesome Writers & Their Fictions One Should Consider For Awards and Glitter Ponies, and I’ve been reading through the works upon them, because there’s a lot that goes right by me — there are So Many Stories, right? It’s hard to catch them all — stories like Pokemon, really! I published a lot last year, and found my name in one place. Just one.

I’ve written novel after novel, and have queried agent after agent, and have received no after no. This isn’t marketable! I am not in love with this Very Weird Idea! I don’t know how to sell this! But some people, your helpful brain reminds you, don’t have to write novels to get agents. They just have them because their short work is brilliant and Does Stuff. Mmm. Well.

Authors who’ve been writing a lot damn less have collections, Elise, because their work resonates and Says Stuff. You’ve never ever been in a Years’ Best, Best Of, Best Bested Bester, because your fiction just… Well. No one knows. Who even reads it. What does it even do — you aren’t exactly on Lists Of Merit. So.


My dear friend Aidan wrote a brilliant thing.

I’ve got three stories I need to write.

And I wish I knew what I was doing.

Writing, mostly.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • J. Kathleen Cheney January 27, 2016, 2:26 pm

    :;sending a hug::

    To some degree, we’re all struggling with this, but sometimes it doesn’t end up on the web, and thus we only get to see other people’s ‘good news’ posts. It’s frustrating, especially when everyone is on a list, it seems, and I’m not. :;sighs::

    I think this is 2/3 of the reason we go to conventions, so we can get together and commiserate about the things we don’t say aloud…

  • Maria Haskins January 27, 2016, 5:58 pm

    As an insignificant reader (and even more insignificant writer), I just want to tell you that your short story The Abduction of Europa is a masterpiece. That sense of dread and fear, discovery and wonder, weaving together myth and sf… stunning. Thank you for writing it. And thank you for writing this: shared doubt is… lessened? Right?

    Unfortunately, I have no powers to nominate anyone for any lists, except my To Read list… and you’re already on that. 😉

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