Amen, Lorrie Moore

Amen, Lorrie Moore
This is excerpted from a long interview called “The Art of Fiction” with Lorrie Moore in the Paris Review, from 2001. You can read the whole thing here. (With thanks to Anakana Schofield for pointing me to it.)

INTERVIEWER

Could you talk about the moment you decided to become a writer, if there was one that you can put your finger on? Or was it always obvious?

MOORE

It’s never always obvious.

INTERVIEWER

Some writers seem to think it was inevitable—they were writing poems when they were five and never stopped.

MOORE

Does that mean it’s obvious? I’d like to see some of those poems.

INTERVIEWER

So you don’t feel you were destined to it, that you had no other choice but to be a writer?

MOORE

Well, that’s all very romantic, and I can be as romantic as the next person. (I swear.) But the more crucial point is the moment you give yourself permission to do it, which is a decision that is both romantic and bloody-minded—it involves desire and foolish hope, but also a deep involvement with one’s art, some sort of useful self-confidence, and some kind of economic plan. One’s life, especially one’s artistic life, is an interplay of many things and the timing of encouragement—from teachers or parents—is also one of the most important elements. Although both my parents are creative people in their way, I was not especially encouraged by them, which might have been good. I certainly don’t blame them. I think they believed you threw things at your children—lessons, books, music—and then let the children sort it out, that if you were too present or too committed to a child’s accomplishment in any area, the child would run away. This, of course, is not really true. Or rather it’s not extremely true. But I received most of my initial encouragement in college, from professors, and by then I was ready to absorb it. I didn’t have the financial freedom to be a writer and have always struggled with that, but I also knew I didn’t want to find myself sixty-five years old and ruing the moment in my youth when I became prematurely practical. I wasn’t at all sure whether I would be able to survive as a writer for the rest of my life. But I decided to keep going for as long as I could and let someone else lock me up for incurable insanity.
Best of summer
And then we rented a dumpster

3 Comments

  1. Oh, I love this interview! I read it in a library years ago — maybe even pre-children — and copied whole passages into my notebook. She’s still my secret justification when I read/write instead of cleaning the house. ‘The trick for me has always been to construct a life in which writing could occur.’ Which, as she suggests, is a pretty hard trick to pull off with young kids. But, as in the passage you quote, it’s just a decision: ‘both romantic and bloody-minded’. Thanks for bringing this all back to mind!

    Reply
  2. So true about the timing of encouragement — for any vocation, really — and the special role of college professors and other mentors at that particular time of life. I’m off to read the whole thing…!

    Reply
  3. Wow. And could fully apply to other aspects of life. Sadly, and gratefully, I have learned to be bloody minded as well.

    Reply

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