< Back to front page Text size +

Susan Orlean's (modified) advice for aspiring writers

Posted by Christopher Shea  September 23, 2010 09:04 AM

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

On the New Yorker's website, Susan Orlean remarks that the decline of newspapers and alt-weeklies has rendered much of the advice that she used to offer aspiring writers out-of-date. However, one piece of advice remains true: Don't move back in with your parents after college, thinking that that's one way to keep expenses down while scribbling away. Why? "Your parents will make you go to law school!"

"Parents," she says, "have an almost Olympian persistence when it comes to suggesting more secure and lucrative lines of work for their children who have the notion that writing is an actual profession. I say this from experience. Even after I’d published three books and had been writing full-time for twenty years, my father continued to urge me to go to law school. I think he deliberately misinterpreted my look of discomfort whenever we’d have this discussion. "Oh, there, there, don’t worry!" he’d say. "It’s not too late!"

On the other hand, her dad's got a point! (At least concerning lucrativeness. Law school is a mug's game, too, at this point.)

PS While looking on the web for a picture of Orlean, it struck me that she omitted one option that takes the need to earn a living out of the equation for writers: Marry someone rich.


Susan Orlean

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
Brainiac blogger Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Columbia, South Carolina. He can be reached here.

Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.

Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.

Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.

Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.

Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."

Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.

Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.


Browse this blog

by category