On Being Broke and Writing The Middlesteins

October 29, 2012 § 1 Comment


We are always pleased to see one of our past Brevity contributors break out in a big way, and Jami Attenberg, author of “Head-Turner,” from our Spring 2001 issue, seems poised to do just that with her fourth book, The Middlesteins: A Novel, endorsed by O Magazine, Jonathan Franzen, and just about every book critic on the planet.  An interesting aspect of Jami’s writing journey is that she quit her full-time job some time ago to “just write,” and here she is interviewed on The Awl about that decision:

Anyway, I don’t recommend you go all in to a creative-writing career like I did unless you have nothing to lose by doing so. I don’t have a family, for example, no future college educations or mortgage to consider. The only child I have to take care of is myself. For the past few years in particular my attitude has been: I’m already broke, what’s wrong with being a little more broke? You sort of just get used to it. You watch everyone around you move forward in their lives in traditional ways, and you accept that you will not be on the same path, especially if you’re a single person, which I am. You just have to give into it, or give up. It’s not for everyone.

I had certain career opportunities that I abandoned along the way. The last long-term job I had was a decade ago, working for HBO, developing interactive content for “Six Feet Under” and “The Sopranos.” There was a lot to like about that job but it never seemed to satisfy me. I had a really strong desire to tap into my own voice, which is hard to do when you’re working on someone else’s vision.

Q: …  I do wonder often about people in those quasi-creative-class careers, don’t they just feel jealous all the time that they don’t get to self-express, use their “voice” as you put it? 

I’ve since gone on to freelance in advertising for the last decade, a few months here, a few months there, and I can’t tell you how many creative directors have said to me, “Oh, you’re a real writer,” as if what they do is not writing. And then I’ll be like, “How’s that house in the Hamptons?” And they’ll say, “It’s magnificent.” I don’t know. We all make our choices.

Read the full Awl interview here.

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§ One Response to On Being Broke and Writing The Middlesteins

  • Edith says:

    It is very inspiring to read about a writer who took the plunge and jumped in. I vacillate between writing freelance and earning some money (and to have a bit of fun too while I do it) or to write what I really want to write, a sort of combination of creative non-fiction and fiction..or maybe better to describe it as fiction based on creative non-fiction……I like to work in the latter first then steal from my own words to create a fictional world which rings true.

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