Joyce Carol Oates on Failure, Persistence, and Finding Your Own Voice

GravediggersThe only incentive I had to get out of my pajamas on Thursday (no, not just lazy, but I write in my pj's as well as sleep in them) was to go see Joyce Carole Oates read her latest novel, The Gravedigger's Daughter, at Book Passage in Corte Madera. Full house, mostly long-time readers. Still, she was awed, gracious, witty, and inspiring.

Her most thoughtful words, in answer to a question from a frustrated new writer, were as follows: "Writers must keep going, they must keep trying. I view it as ‘fishing with a lot of line.' At one point, I had 17 lines out! Maybe one would get a nibble. But you must be upbeat. I would always try my best, and use a rejection to re-read and rewrite….Faulkner tried to write in Aldous Huxley's voice, and failed. But then he found his own voice, and succeeded…All writers and artists have failed at one point. In fact, failure can be instructional. You learn from what you do."

Can't agree more,


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