I’m mentoring a YA writer. She’s an earnest young woman with “a lot to say.” I tell her I have almost nothing to say and have made a so-called career out of very thin air and enjoyed myself along the way. She thinks I’m kidding. She says I don’t understand what it’s like to face the cold, white page every day. I suggest paper of another color. Ivory is nice. She humors me. After all, I could be her grandfather. All I need is a front porch and a hound dog.
I’ve written about this before — the pleasure one takes in composition. How lovely it is to meet nouns in their natural habitat and pair them with unlikely and sometimes volatile verbs.
In a recent TNY piece, Daniel Mendelsohn writes about his correspondence with Mary Renault. They became epistolary friends. He sent her his early stories. She said nice things. Here’s one — “Just carry on enjoying yourself with writing. Love what you are doing and do it as well as you can.”
He was very young and didn’t write well yet. Maybe he suffered. Maybe he had cold, white pages to contend with. But he admits he enjoyed what he was doing and, in fact, flat out loved it.
Try that. Try being a deeply affectionate writer. Don’t be like the vegetarian who won’t give money to the homeless because they’ll just use it to buy meat.