Just Shelley Writing

I’ll Never Write for the New Yorker

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I started writing when I was five years old. I wrote everything: articles, stories, fairy tales, even a musical when I was 12 that my school kindly let me produce and present.

Writing is as much a part of me as breathing, laughter, and hope. My spelling is not always accurate or my grammar all that proper (I’ve heard both kindly referred to as ‘creative’), but my passion for writing remains as strong today as it was years ago.

I’m one of the lucky few that actually makes a living from writing, though not always consistently, and usually having to be supplemented by outside endeavors. Professionally, I write books and articles on computer technology and the Internet. Privately, I write articles on space and math and history and ship wrecks and giant squid and travel and art .

All of my work might be considered informative at times, or passionate, biting, silly, maybe even witty — but none of it can be referred to as “art”. I’ve been called an author and a writer, but never an artist.

That’s not to say I’m not pleased and proud of my work, especially when I receive emails from people who have been helped by my books, or who have enjoyed my articles. However,in the back of my mind I’ve had a secret dream for years. I wanted my writing to be considered art. I wanted people to point to me and my work and say “There’s an artist”.

And I’ve always wanted to write for the New Yorker.

Now, granted, there are other magazines more prestigous or more lucrative than the New Yorker. However, my golden fleece, my dragon to be seduced is this magazine, no other.

I have this scenario carefully constructed in my mind — me sending off an article of great worth that some editor recognizes as a diamond in the rough (creative grammar and spelling aside) and worth inclusion within the magazine’s august covers. I would receive a letter back in the mail telling me my article would be included in an issue to be published at such and such date.

I imagined myself calling my brother and telling him that I was going to be published in the New Yorker. Or better yet, calling my father — he’s never understood my work with computers. Now he could finally say to his friends “My daughter writes for the New Yorker”. He may not like what I write, but he’ll at least understand it.

And some morning a year or so later I would get a call: the article I wrote for the New Yorker has been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize!

Sunshine would reign in the midst of Alaska in the dead of winter and butterflies would circle an eagle’s head, singing hosannas to the universe!

In my rather long and involved scenario, not long after winning the Prize I would be asked to give readings (computer book authors are never asked to give readings), and a publisher would contract with me to write a novel. The Novel. The one that someone someday would force children in High School to read because It’s Good For Them and a work of Great Literature.

What a lovely, lovely dream.

Unfortunately, dragons have a habit of resisting seduction, and sometimes the fleece is tarnished.

This week I had a strong moment of self realization, and I knew for a fact that I would never be the type of writer that writes for the New Yorker.

I’ll never write the great American novel. I’ll never be picked by Oprah as a book of the month. My work will not earn for me a Pulitzer, and my books will never be used as a lesson in Great Literature in some school somewhere.

It’s funny, but once self realization strikes all our unreasonable dreams stand out, harshly, black against white. You start to look at what you say you want to do, or have dreamed of doing, and realize that some of it just isn’t going to happen.

These are the things I’ll never do:

  • I’ll never climb Mount Everest
  • I’ll never drive a race car
  • I’ll never sail around the world in a single person sailboat
  • I’ll never be the chairman of a major corporation
  • I’ll never be the inventor of cold fusion (physics, not software; and not the software either, come to think of it)
  • I’ll never walk on the moon
  • I’ll never be a professional photographer
  • I’ll never be 21 again
  • And I’ll never write for the New Yorker

No matter the dream, these things aren’t for me.

Life and luck and skill and strength give each of us a unique platform from which to stand to achieve our own great works. If we spend all of our lives trying to jump to platforms that don’t suit us, then we’ll never have a chance to create something unique. If you want to call this “realizing our limitations”, fine. I prefer to call it “realizing our strengths”.

And writing for the New Yorker is not one of my strengths. I’ll never write that way. That’s not me. Good or bad. That’s just not me.

When such a strong self-realization hits, you lose your breath, you lose your blinders, you sit down hard, and the Universe does an infinitely intangible waltz with your head.

Once the disorientation clears, you begin to realize how weighed down you are by your own unrealistic hopes and expectations. After you drop the baggage of things that don’t fit, you can start taking joy in the things that are right for you, regardless of the effort to reach them.

These are the things I will do:

  • I will hike hills and mountains throughout the world, and walk in deserts far
  • I will drive a convertable someday. And a Humbee
  • I’ll learn how to sail
  • I’ll take pride in not being a chairman of a major corporation, especially Enron
  • I will have great fun with technology
  • I will look at the moon and the planets and the stars through my telescope and dream of humanity’s ultimate conquest of space
  • I’ll enjoy my photos for themselves, and appreciate those taken by ones more skilled than I
  • I’ll never be 21 again. Thank god

And every day I don’t write for the New Yorker, I’ll write about what I feel, and think, and know, and see, and taste, and touch, and love.

And that will be enough.

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