I wonder if it’s possible to create an art, a business, that’s more
welcoming to the talented people we lose during the grind. I wonder if
we can be honest about how difficult it is while also being supportive
to those who struggle, instead of telling them to suck it up. The
profession we’ve chosen is not easy – but nor is becoming a brain
surgeon or a nuclear scientist or a marine biologist. We choose, and we
work, and we hope we get lucky. We hope that life’s oftentimes tragic
circumstances don’t waylay us on the journey there. We are lucky if we
start three steps ahead of others, with money in the bank, a supportive
family, good health. It costs us nothing, if we’re starting three steps
ahead, not only to reach a hand out to help those behind, but to work
toward building a world that reduces the distance so many have from the
starting line.

I have seen the cultures that ‘‘just suck it up’’ companies build,
and they are filled with the same cruel people, the same hungry, selfish
faces. I don’t want to build a writing community like that, where only
the biggest jerk on the island wins. We do people a disservice by
pretending that the game isn’t rigged, and that selfish people don’t get

Maybe the best road, the best map to hand to someone breaking into
the business, is to say, ‘‘Yes, this is hard. It’s full of horrible
people, sometimes. You’re going to be rejected, and lonely, and feel
great despair and outrage and sorrow. But if you stay here, if you stick
with it, you can be part of building a better way through, of busting
down a wall, yanking down some barbed wire, or just being the lifeline
for a new writer who needs a sympathetic ear before she throws in the
towel. If you survive the road that gets you here, you can help build a
new road that others can travel more easily.’’

That’s the school of writing I want to teach. The hopeful but
pragmatic one, where we’re all in this together, and the best is yet to