My Favorite Links This Week

Falling short: seven writers reflect on failure

This is not an affectation, failure is what writers do. It is built in. Your immeasurable ambition is eked out through the many thousand individual words of your novel, each one of them written and rewritten several times, and this requires you to hold your nerve for a very long period of time – or forget about holding your nerve, forget about the wide world and all that anxiety and just do it, one word after the other. And then redo it, so it reads better. The writer’s great and sustaining love is for the language they work with every day. It may not be what gets us to the desk but it is what keeps us there and, after 20 or 30 years, this love yields habit and pleasure and necessity.

Being a writer means being intimate with failure. Every day you sit down in front of that desk knowing that all first drafts are horrible and second drafts only marginally better. So you sit revising and revising ruthlessly attacking your shortcomings because that is the only way to get better. That’s probably true for most things in life.

How Reading Fiction Helps You Think Better

Furthermore,” they add, “while reading, the reader can simulate the thinking styles even of people he or she might personally dislike. One can think along and even feel along with Humbert Humbert in Lolita, no matter how offensive one finds this character. This double release—of thinking through events without concerns for urgency and permanence, and thinking in ways that are different than one’s own—may produce effects of opening the mind.

My English professor who includes “to become a better person” as one of her course objectives would love this.

I have a country to lose

I can not in all earnestness say that I have ever applied myself to imagining a better future for Zimbabwe. Partly because I am afraid to hope. Partly because I am afraid to care too much about it because caring would make me obligated to act. Caring would make me obligated to do something. Even a small thing. Partly because I didn’t know what to do. And even when others suggested what could be done and their suggestions were great – I let myself be smothered by the futility of trying to change things. Despair is easier than hope. Far more comfortable and far less risky.

When people ask me what would make things better in Zimbabwe, I never know what to say. I’m so used to pointing out the bad that I struggle to imagine a way forward. But free and fair elections have to be a step in the right direction.


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