A little over two decades ago, when my becoming a writer was still a newly-borne dream, I read Pam Houston’s, “How to Talk to a Hunter.” I had two reactions: “Oh crap, I’m so far from being able to write something like this,” and, “Cool, this is what’s possible.” Currently, I’m reading Patricia Hampl’s, I Could Tell You Stories, and I’m having the same sensations of recognizing how far I still have to go, while seeing the world of possibilities opening further.
I still don’t write stories anywhere near the caliber of Houston’s, “Hunter.” Then, that particular story stands out when compared to the rest of her work. Yet, I could surely select any of her short stories and still see a distance between hers and mine. It’d be easy to get discouraged, to lay the pen down, and go back to being a French Fry Master at BurgerLand. Fortunately, that second realization also arrives. Just because I’m unable to do as well, now, absolutely does not mean I never will. Ron Carlson repeatedly states that, “the writer is the one who stays in the room.” He means they stay in the writing chair, staying with the story, rather than getting up for another cup of coffee, to look out the window to check on the weather, to go to the stacks to make sure some fact they’ve just written is accurate. Surely, he also means they stay with writing, “in the room,” across the years, returning day after week after month to confront the empty pages.
Due to my having read her award-winning short story, I’ve continued following Houston’s career. I’ve read interviews where she mentions much the same frustrations and discouragements I’ve had. Reading this, especially more than once and across several years, levels the playing field. She, too, is mortal, struggles with and for her craft. It also places the reins back into mine own hands. If one mortal can achieve such writing, then so can this mortal; therefore, shuddup with your whining, and write.