Meredith Maran shares the one thing has remained true through the ups and downs of a career in writing that began at age 17: she can’t not write.

"Only a writer as fierce and incisive as Meredith Maran could have written a book as intimate, dark, bracing and revelatory as My Lie." That's what Pulitzer Prize novelist Michael Chabon has to say about Meredith Maran's new memoir. I first heard part of this amazing story of false memory at novelist Terry Gamble's house. When Meredith finished reading what was then a piece she was working on for a magazine: utter silence; we were all too in awe to speak. That story resulted in a book contract, and that book, My Lie, is just out. It is my drop-everything-to-read book of the fall.

Meredith was first published in Seventeen Magazine when she was ... 17. She's since published so many books and articles that you'd think she's found the easy road to being a writer. Her lovely post is perhaps the most compelling evidence I've yet had that none exists. - Meg

Sitting here with my laptop in my, um, lap, pondering the question, “How do writers get started?” I have to laugh. What you’re reading now is the third start I’ve made on this little essay, and I’m still not sure it’ll stick.

And therein lies the story of starting. You start. You stop. You start. You stop again. And then suddenly you start—a blog post, a poem, a story, a novel—and you don’t stop. You can’t. You get stuck, you walk away, you throw a hissy fit, you break up with your project, but still the blinking cursor pulls you back. Can you leave a bowl of Chocolate Fudge Brownie half-eaten? No, you cannot.

You wrestle with the plot, the point, the characters, the structure. Most of all (and yes, this is inevitable and no, there are no exceptions) you wrestle with your demon doubts. Your writing sucks, publishing sucks, your childhood sucked, your computer sucks, you suck most of all. Still, you need to move that cursor down the screen. You need to fill the page, the section, the chapter. You need to find out what happens: to the story, and to you in writing it. Without realizing you’re thinking it, you think that maybe when you finish, nothing will suck quite as much as it did before. And there’s only one way to find out. Keep going. Finish. And see.

Sounds pretty airy-fairy coming from a writer who’s earned her living, paltry as it’s been at times, doing exactly that since I was seventeen years old. Following the thought to the words, the words to the page, the page to publication. True: when I published my first article in Seventeen in 1968, my first anthology contribution in 1970, my first book in 1971, I didn’t believe in shaving my armpits, let alone celebrity; money was irrelevant, almost unnecessary, and in my adolescent wisdom I believed that my smooth path from impulse to print would continue to roll on like that forever.

It did, and it didn’t. I’ve written books that have been denied publication despite the Herculean efforts of all concerned, and I’ve been paid shocking amounts of money for books that rolled off my fingers like honey spools off a spoon. I’ve rejoiced over my writing career and I’ve wept rivers over my writing career. But as the decades have passed and the technologies and the trends and the economics and the cruelties of the publishing-industrial complex have destroyed careers far hardier than mine, one thing has remained true: I can’t not write.

If I have to cut my so-called lifestyle down to the bone, if I have to write website copy for pharmaceutical corporations, if I have to soothe my fears of the future with vague dreams of miracles to come—I have to keep writing. Because the worst day writing is better than the best day in a grey flannel cubicle. (And believe me, I’ve got a long list of ex-employers who would agree.) Because there is simply no better feeling than the one I’m having right now: it’s flowing, it’s going, I’m in it, and it’s in me, so I don’t need to start over. I just need to start writing the next thing. - Meredith

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Tags: #process/craft, #publishing, Meredith Maran

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Comment by Linda Joy Myers on September 30, 2010 at 9:20pm
I am looking forward to reading your memoir, Meredith. I've met you at local book events over the years, and hope that we might connect regarding your memoir. I am a therapist and familiar with many of the issues that you discussed in your interview with Michael Krasney. Good luck with your book!
Comment by Amy Wise on September 27, 2010 at 10:01am
Oh my gosh Meredith this could not have come at a better time! I just found out on Friday that my full time "paying" job was cut down not by half, but to basically next to nothing. Ironically I shouldn't have been working for someone else in the first place, but then this happened (see link below)......and I didn't have a choice....

http://thenextfamily.com/2010/07/%e2%80%9ci%e2%80%99m-sorry-did-you...

I have been praying for the time to write full time and, well....be careful what you wish for!!! =) It's crazy because I'm excited to now have the time to really dig in and write, write, write. I'm writing online, I'm being published in an anthology next month, and I'm working on my book (about the link above). Now I can REALLY go for it! So thank you for this....and thank you for the reminder that we CAN do it, and it will work out, one way or another! Have a great week!

Amy
Comment by Julie Jeffs on September 27, 2010 at 9:48am
Thank you again Meg bringing this post to us. Love that feeling when it is flowing. Can't wait to get it back!
Comment by Lisa Martinez on September 25, 2010 at 3:00pm
Thank you for that. You have captured the heart of many writers to be sure-mine included.

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