Robert Olen Butler’s recent writing-advice book, From Where You Dream, warns of the difficulties of being a literary artist instead of, say, a basketball player:
Now, there’s one big difference between the athlete’s zone and the artist’s zone. [T]o make [Michael Jordan’s] zone exactly analogous to the art zone, you have to add this: every time he shoots… Michael Jordan would have to confront, without flinching, the moment when his father’s chest was blown apart by the shotgun held by his kidnapper. You know that happened in Michael Jordan’s life. Well, Michael would have to confront that in order to make a basket every time. Without flinching. Now his zone is equal to the artist’s zone. And now you understand the challenge of being an artist.
When I realized how awfully Professor Butler suffers—with his 15 books, a Pulitzer, a Guggenheim, an NEA grant, and an annual salary of $138,756—I decided to go be a corn creamer down at the Del Monte plant, where I’ll have no basis for self-pity.