Dream of Life
This issue of Author features my 45-minute conversation with Amy Tan. I thought Amy had a lot of great things to say about being an author, about keeping your balance in what is an easily unbalanced profession, and about finding the meaning of her life in writing. What was perhaps most instructive to me, however, was the story she told of how The Joy Luck Club was published and achieved its rapid and surprise success (See Part One starting around 15:00). Not only did Amy Tan have no expectation for this collection of stories, she also had no resistance to its success. It may sound odd to think that any writer would have any resistance to his or her work’s success, but I believe it is quite common. Amy’s stories were initially getting published essentially without any effort on her part. In other words, she wasn’t choosing to publish here or there, publishers were coming to her and asking to publish her stories.
I think that this experience is actually closer to reality than many of us understand. The truth is we have no control over who will publish our work and who will not – or, if we are self-published, over who will buy our work and who will not. We all know this intellectually, but we still may not want to believe it. How can we simply turn this very important part of our lives over to something other than our own will?
Yet when I write my stories I always seek the most effortless path, which means following what the story wants to be, not what I want it to be. So too with that story’s publication. A story’s success will depend on my willingness to allow it to succeed as it was meant to succeed. The only one who can impede its success is me, for there is no one else in the world who would care how and when and why it succeeded. To allow my stories to find their place in the world is to allow the dream of life to reach its own surprising conclusion.
Write Within Yourself: An Author's Companion. "A book to keep nearby whenever your writer's spirit needs feeding." Deb Caletti.