The Clique Of One

Kevin O’Brian (author most recently of Vicious and the subject of a January interview) shared a story with me the other day about the romance writer Debbie Macomber. It was Debbie’s first writing class, and the professor spent one entire period dissecting her first assignment, using it as an example of how not to write. This stung, but Debbie is pretty durable, and after class she approached the teacher and asked if he had anything constructive he might be able to tell her about her work. “Yes,” he said. “Quit writing.” I would tell you how many books Debbie has published since then, but there were too many listed on her website for me to count. She has been a #1 New York Times Bestseller, there are 130 million copies of her books in print, she has won numerous awards . . . you get the point. But she writes romance. I’m sure the writing teacher wanted her to write literary fiction.

I don’t want to bash this teacher I’ve never met. Obviously, he was wrong. Obviously, she should not have quit writing. So it would be easy to bash this teacher, except that snobbery is a kind of despair. Often, it is an expression of loneliness, a fear that the world is made up of nothing but romance writers and their readers (50% of fiction sold is romance!) and there you are alone at the back table of the café with your Raymond Carver collection.

No, it is never easy to spend your life discovering who you are, only to find that who you are is a part of a small and maybe even shrinking minority. Every heart yearns to be a part of the entire world, it is it’s natural place. The closer you look at that heart, the more you understand that the kindred spirits that have joined you at your table are perhaps not your people at all. In the end, you are a clique of one, as is everybody, and the more fully we understand this, the closer we feel to all the other searching souls—alone in our thoughts, but bound continuously by the thought of love.

If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual and group conferencing.

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