Writing What Will Be

“All writers without exception find themselves clapperclawed from time to time,” Joyce Carol Oates said 10 years into a career that’s now over 50 years old.

In those 50 years, Ms. Oates has written some 140 books for the world to read. And when you write and write, there’s always the chance you’ll be clapperclawed and clapperclawed.

She has taken that chance. And she has gotten that clapperclawing. She has been criticized for writing too flatly, too overwroughtly, too hastily, too violently, and writing too much.

None of which has made her put her pen down.

“A writer who has published as many books as I have has developed, of necessity, a hide like a rhino’s, while inside there dwells a frail, hopeful butterfly of a spirit.”

When Ms. Oates is done writing one piece, she turns to another. Which also helps to manage the criticism.

“I’ve never been able to respond very fully to criticism, frankly, because I’ve usually been absorbed in another work by the time the criticism is available to me.”

It echoes another writer’s statement from years earlier: “The critics don’t interest me,” Aldous Huxley said. “They’re concerned with what’s past and done, while I’m concerned with what comes next.”

So, all writers without exception find themselves clapperclawed from time to time.

But let the clapperclaws clapperclaw what was. The frail, hopeful butterfly will keep on writing what will be.

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