I once read somewhere that the editor Gordon Lish said writers are like animals, that they have a fierce instinct inside them, driving them through their work. According to him, the instinct kicks in in the face of competition, the world truly turning into a matter of survival of the fittest. He was giving a lecture to group of young writers. He asked how many of them hoped to get published and he watched them think, watched them raising their hands in silent yearning, looking at him in the eye, all at once, telling him they could make it, each saying exactly that: I will make it. One day my words will sit on your bookshelf, Gordon Lish. I will make it. He searched the hands in the air, each waiting for what he would say next. Finally, his chance to give his lesson, to deliver his message. A moment to preach. He scanned the students, all one hundred of them. Only one of you will make it, he said. Maybe two.
According to Lish, this is our animal instinct. Even though the odds are small each thinks that they will be the one to make it big. It’s not quite paranoia and it’s not quite jealousy. It’s more like fear.
But what Lish couldn’t anticipate is that now, when you write stories, you’re not alone. Your work touches others, and is not unto itself but instead among, among all of those aching writers. And here are mine: one at Vol. 1 Brooklyn and the other at Bluestem, among my heroes.