To follow literary fashion, to write for money, to censor your true feelings and thoughts or adopt ideas because they’re popular requires a writer to suppress the very promptings that got him or her writing in the first place. When you started writing, in high school or college, it wasn’t out of a wish to be published, or to be successful, or even to win a lovely award like the one you’re receiving tonight. It was in response to the wondrousness and humiliation of being alive. Remember?
I wanted to stand up and cheer. Here is another line I loved that Eugenides pulled from Colm Toibin: “It seems that the essential impulse in working is … to allow what haunts you to have a voice, to chart what is deeply private and etched on the soul, and find a form and structure for it.” As Eugenides says, finding a form for what haunts you cannot be a commercial enterprise.”
But read his whole post. It’s a needed shot in the arm, an inoculation against the well intended and deadening advice in print and all over the internet, from agents and editors and good-hearted people in the business, to sell yourself and appeal to the fad of the moment if you can catch onto its shirt-tails, advice that is reinforced by accolades and attention to those who take it by chance or calculation.
Eugenides’ final words of wisdom: “Not to be a slave to fashion or commerce, not to succumb to arid self-censorship, not to bow to popular opinion—what is all that but a description of the educated, enlightened life?”