I tried to play down my agony for the sake of you fine people, but let me tell you that these past few weeks have been awful. Not wholly awful, but awful in terms of a certain 15-20 page story assignment that has been hovering over my head since the end of January. I told you I was uninspired. I told you I was worried. What I didn’t tell you was that in the space of a few weeks I wondered constantly whether I could even be a writer at all. Writers, I was sure, should be able to sprinkle ideas like they’re Jolly Ranchers thrown in a parade.
And I didn’t seem to have that capacity. I came up with three different ideas, but all of them felt stale and lifeless. I wrote opening paragraphs, but those weren’t any better.
Then, last night, I read the following line in a letter from F. Scott Fitzgerald to his daughter Scottie:
“How strange to have failed as a social creature.”
He was talking about Zelda, the beautiful and damned. Failed ballet dancer, semi-successful writer, institutionalized former belle.
Suddenly, I had a plot. I had characters so vivid that I felt I had known them a very long time. I had a beginning and an end. I had to resist the temptation to pounce on some strange freshman and explain my magnificent idea.
I realize that the hardest part is yet to come; I still have to write the thing. But I finally finally know where I’m going, which is as comforting a thought as I’ve ever had.