God grant me the confidence of a mediocre white man…

Preferably a different mediocre white man—one more confident than I am.

So, reader, and God knows who you are really, you five to twenty five hits a day, here I am, praying for the confidence to make the great leap to novel length work.  I’ve wrestled with what to do next. Try to write genre YA fiction? Why would I do that? Because the genre category of YA has a bigger readership than all of adult SF. That’s why.

Also, of course, because I love YA, and as a parent of two YAs I spent five years reading this stuff out loud to my oddly cooperative teens. They finally rebelled, and stopped listening, but my God it was fun while it lasted. Something about sharing a story with a live audience, knowing they were there, that we were all listening together, these two kids I love, these stories I loved…

So maybe YA?

I am so happy to have gotten the publication I’ve gotten since 2013, to have broken into these iconic magazines, Asimov’s, Analog, F&SF. I’m still reeling. But my new peers, the other writers in these magazines, seem to be kicking my sorry ass every time I peek into social media. They seem to be a part of a scene, a culture, a time and place and I feel, as always, a bit apart and alone. Outside looking in.

Twenty years ago, when I went to Clarion, I wanted to be Discovered. I wanted a mentor. Oh, the things that the mediocre white man wants… that he expects as his due!

Hah! God I was an asshole.

You want to take the genre by storm, you want award nominations, you want fans, good reviews, you want, you want, you want…

Buckle up buttercup. Not everyone gets those things. Not everyone gets published. Not everyone can find a workshop. Some writers can’t find a single reader.

The only thing we all get is the blank page.

The awesome responsibility of filling that page. The heady lunacy of building worlds. The deep connection with humanity that is being other people, creating characters in conflict, being the other, being yourself, laying your heart bare.

And playing God.

I wanted to meet all my writing heroes and hang out with them. Be friends! Have these amazing conversations, without understanding that I already have all of that. We all do. Every book you read is that friendship. Every book is that conversation. Every reader gets their writer. Practically in the biblical sense!

So I have everything I need. A giant pile of books. A magical typewriter filled with an infinite number of blank pages. A global computer network for research. Even a few writer and editor friends, made painstakingly, one at a time, over time. You know. The way all friends are made.

I have everything I need except for the confidence that is my birthright.

In the worst case scenario I will vividly illustrate my mediocrity.

In the best case…

I get to write something worth writing, worth reading, worth remembering.


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3 comments on “God grant me the confidence of a mediocre white man…
  1. Great post, Jay. Here’s to writing things worth the writing, and to finding what it takes to confront the blank page/screen and fill it. Write on!

  2. admin says:

    Thanks Mary! Your body of work, with your poetry building into novel length stories, is amazing. You were my first model of what a work ethic in writing looked like. You still are.

  3. 🙂 Thank you, Jay. You were one of the people who made me feel better about being in Boston, back when I still missed England. You were cool. And I suspect you still are.

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