A year ago, I moved to Philadelphia to do two things: to live with my girlfriend, who had just taken a teaching position in Wilmington, and to write. I had just graduated from the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College, where I studied poetry. I had 30-something pages of thesis manuscript to work with, all of which I’ve since abandoned. I wrote a few new poems. I worked two jobs. I published a book review. I read submissions, briefly, for a poetry journal. I started a blog.
Of all of the tasks I’ve taken on since moving to Philly, starting a novel was perhaps the most misguided. In David Castro’s book, Genership: Beyond Leadership, Toward Liberating the Creative Soul, Castro describes our society as one that pits creativity against rationality; we engineer our career and life choices according to logic, what seems reasonable, what will cover our rent. Castro asks “What if our most critical human goal…is not to know or understand, but rather to create, to generate?” For a writer, an occupation rooted against the odds, the novel is the reasonable choice. Unlike poems, people actually buy novels–you can find them in grocery stores on a rack next to Us Weekly and Maxim. The public has relationships with novelists; they have name recognition. Stephen King, Suzanne Collins, David Baldacci–surely, even if you’ve never read their novels, you’ve heard of them. And though you’ve read a poem by Robert Frost or even one of Shakespeare’s sonnets, it’s more likely that you’ve read a novel by someone still living; the last poet you read has likely been dead for a century or longer.