Thursday, July 05, 2007

On Being a Former Writer:

I was thinking the other day about how much time I used to spend writing. And how conflicted I was about it. I started writing in my junior year of high school, and became obsessed with it during my sophomore year of college, when I started my first novel during my spring break. That was in March of 1997. From then until the Spring of 2005 I spent most of my free time writing. I didn't read as many books as I had in high school. Writing also limited the number of friends I made, and limited the amount of time I could spend with the friends I did have.

Oddly, what led me to stop writing fiction was the publication of two short stories. At the time I was working as an assistant and then a junior agent (a "coordinator") in the book department at the William Morris Agency in New York, and I was terrified that they would find out I was a writer. It seemed like something to be ashamed of. So I used a pseudonym: Byron Adams, or sometimes Byron Y. Adams. I picked it because Adams appears near the beginning of an alphabetized list, and I had read this makes people more likely to read one's story.

In 2004/2005 I got two short stories published in literary magazines: The Pace of Change, in Confrontation, and another story in The Berkshire Review. I thought that this would make it easier for me to get other stories published, or maybe get one of my novels published. But it did not. I submitted many more stories to many more magazines and got continually rejected. Of course, this was no different from the way my life had generally been before my first publication! But something about the fact that publication changed nothing sapped what had, until then, been a formidible amount of will-power. What I fully realized (though I had always told it to myself in the past) was that every story, no matter who writes it, has to stand on its own merits. And when I looked back on the amount of time I had spent writing my published stories, and writing the dozens that will never be published, I realized that I just didn't have the time or the talent to continue it anymore. I wanted more time with friends, I wanted to read books, I wanted to watch baseball games. I wanted my liesure time to be liesure time, rather than time spent feeling guilty or angry that I was not writing.

Now, as I finish law school, one of my biggest regrets is that I published my two stories under that stupid pseudonym, that I cared what the people at William Morris would think of me if they found out I was a writer. I think the only shame is in someone who hides the fact that he or she has an impulse to write. What's shameful is the shame. So that's why I'm writing this post. I don't know if I'll ever return to writing, I don't know if I'll ever publish another story. But I want it written somewhere that I, Kenyon Harbison, at least published two good short-stories. And I want to write down the fact that I'm not ashamed to have tried, and failed, to be writer.