Beginning writers look for rules, guidelines, clever sayings that can be posted on a mirror, and these things are important, or at least they were for me. My apartment used to be cluttered with sayings such as Flaubert’s “Live like a bourgeois and think like a demigod.” I also had on my walls crazy sentences, lines I’d typed out of novels, lines that I liked for their rhythm or their content. I had hundreds of these snippets Scotch-taped all over my walls, so that anyone who might have happened into my apartment without knowing that writing was what I was up to in my spare time might have thought I was a madman, without sense or order or reason—which I might well have been.

I am no longer quite so loony with energy. Work is harder. You’re never going to have it so good as you do when all your stories are new, when you’ve hardly ever told a story before, not a full one, not one that rings bells in your head and in all your readers’ heads. What I am getting at is how lucky a young writer is to be pushing forward, learning, and developing—and though only halfway developed, good enough to know only that writing stories is what you want to do.

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