You’ve heard of Elizabeth Gilbert, right? The woman who wrote Eat, Pray, Love? She wrote other books too, including The Signature of All Things. (I just downloaded it to my iPad.) Yesterday I listened to a podcast featuring an interview with Gilbert, and she said that although The Signature didn’t do as well as Eat, Pray, Love, she was okay with that.
She then went on to tell of a conversation that took placed years ago when she was a 22-year-old diner waitress (her words). She and a professor from the University of Pennsylvania were discussing James Jones, author of From Here to Eternity. An aspiring writer, Gilbert admitted that the book was phenomenally successful, and then wondered aloud why Jones had never written another masterpiece.
In talking with the erudite professor, Gilbert scoffed at Jones’ “one hit wonder.” That’s the last time she ever made that mistake. Immediately the professor “schooled” her when he began to ask a series of questions. What was her objection to Jones’ work? Does a person have to keep producing best sellers to be considered gifted? Shouldn’t you applaud people who keep producing their work? Encourage those who put their work out there?
Gilbert felt little as she considered the arrogance of a 22-year-old unpublished waitress who had dissed James Jones. After all, what had she done (in the writing arena)? Who was she to say such an audacious thing? One hit wonder indeed.
Decades later, Gilbert remembers that diner discussion with the prof and asks, “Even if it’s not a masterpiece, so what? Shouldn’t people keep on going? Keep on writing?” (Paraphrase)
I have no aspirations of becoming rich and famous through my writing, and neither does anyone else in my writing group. Most have been published, however, and a couple have won prestigious awards for their work. At the same time, we all have stories to tell: tales of woe, wonder, happiness, relatedness, horror, disappointment, humor, hope, adventure, and astonishment. You name it; we’ve got it.
We’re putting together an anthology of some of our stories, especially those of the nostalgic type, and we hope to have it available by the end of October. Today as I was describing our group project to a would-be writer, he asked, “So y’all are going to put together a little booklet or something?” A little booklet????
“Yeah, or something,” I replied serenely, remembering Gilbert’s conversation with the professor. Shouldn’t you encourage people who put their work out there? Do you have stories to share? Why aren’t you writing them?