Dear E. Jean,
Though you won’t be able to tell it from this email — I’m a little frazzled right now — I am intent on becoming a serious novelist. I’m also in love with a very wonderful man who works for a polling company. And it is crazy now with the Republican and Democratic primaries. Just absolutely nuts. Every night he comes home from work not tired . . . but pumped. He wants to go out on the town to clubs, restaurants, parties, bars with banjo players, etc., etc. He loves the whole nighttime scene!
But in the evenings I want silence. Peace. I need to think and read. Nights are the only time I have to write. (I work in the fund-raising office of a university during the day and it is exhausting!) So what do we do? When we stay home, he is so jumpy and plays the television so loudly all the ideas fly out of my head. Plus he keeps walking into the bedroom (where I work) to tell me something “interesting” he just saw on The Daily Show! We are heading into a whole year of politics! Help!
— Wants to Be the Next Margaret Atwood
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MARGARET, MY YOUNG TROLLYMOG: If you are serious about becoming a great writer, you have four options:
The Toni Morrison Option:
Switch your writing time to the morning before you go to work. Toni Morrison wrote for three hours every day before she left for her editing job at Random House. When she was younger and teaching at Howard University, she raised two kids and wrote The Bluest Eye.
The Doris Lessing Method
Keep your night-time writing schedule, wear headphones which block out noise, and any time the chap enters the bedroom, shout: “Begone Beastly Man! I am struggling towards the golden dawn!”
The Virginia Woolf Prerogative
Rent a small room, go there after work to write, and then meet the lad for a late dinner. Turn out brilliant work. (Do not drown yourself later by loading stones in your pockets.)
The George Eliot Program
Move out, get your own place, write a piece for the Westminster Review called “Silly Novels by Lady Novelists” and go on to compose one of the grandest books of your century.
Whichever you choose, you must lock yourself up, do battle every day, and follow your aesthetic bliss. . . . or, you will never emblazon your name across the Great American Novel.