Paul Harding’s Thoughts on Writing, Publishing, and the Self

Today you need to read Pulitzer-prize-winning author Paul Harding’s essay about how he created Tinkers, which is to say that I needed very much to read this essay today (it was published this morning at LitHub), and I’m pretty sure I’ll need to read it tomorrow and the next day as well.

Here’s your link: When a Very Small Press Wins a Pulitzer: Paul Harding Looks Back at Tinkers, Ten Years On.

Here’s your excerpt:

My wonderful writing teachers, Marilynne Robinson and Elizabeth McCracken, always urged never to confuse publishing with writing, that they were two very different things. I took the rejection of Tinkers by the market to mean that if I meant to continue, it was possible that I would be a writer who wrote but did not publish. Rejection, then, freed me from thinking about publishing.

At first, of course, it didn’t feel a thing like freedom. I despaired at what I thought of as my fatally quaint and antique interest in and capacity for lyric pastoral, for birchbark metaphysics. But really, I’d been given the privilege of working my way out of the self-consciousness that comes from evaluating one’s natural artistic inclinations against prevailing conceit and fashion and into the self-awareness that makes for intellectual and aesthetic autonomy.

Here’s your other excerpt, because this hit me SO HARD:

Few things interest me less than myself as a subject for my writing. But few things interest me more than the experience of being a “self” and portraying the experiences of selfhood through literary characters composed of words.

Read the whole thing. Read it twice. Bookmark it so you’ll have it when you need to read it the next time. ❤️

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