The Young Writer

April 24, 2011

Elif Batuman’s life changed when she published a bestselling book. In The Guardian, she writes about how it feels no longer to be the outsider – and about asking Jonathan Franzen for some weed.

The young writer is someone whom the world has let down, ignored, persecuted or exasperated, someone accustomed to “poverty and the world’s indifference” – accustomed, as Franzen was before they put him on the cover of Time magazine, to working furiously in a tiny studio, wearing earmuffs and sitting on a chair held together with duct tape. To a large extent, this opposition with the world supplies both motivation and the content of most early writings.

She ends her piece with another all-too-familiar conundrum of engaging in long-term writing projects:

“Let’s say you’re writing a long piece. It takes months or even years to finish. How do you keep your style consistent?” The girl, who had seemed only mildly interested in the boy’s previous questions, sat up. “Yes! You change and grow as a person – so how do you keep that change out of your writing?”

For the first time in years, I remembered what it was like to worry about consistency, about balancing one’s influences and establishing a voice, about staying the same. At some point, you get it down. Then the hard part is figuring out how to change.

Read the complete article, here: guardian.co.uk

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