Ask Roxane: ‘Bad Feminist’ Author Issues Advice Column

Ian Maddox for Brooklyn Mag

Feeling down? 'Ask Roxane'.

While rambling on Twitter, as one does, I stumbled upon a tweet by Roxane Gay issuing her very own advice column for Sunday Review. Elated, I clicked on it immediately, and unsurprisingly, it was exactly the pick-me-up I needed.

In the Hunger author’s first installment of “Ask Roxane,” she provides counsel to two people on the brink of very similar crises: Is it ever too late to make a career in writing? Despite our age differences, I, too, have considered the haunting probability. Somehow, I allowed myself to nurture a sort of insurmountable sense of defeatism as a writer. Partly due to the absence of creative focus and determination this year.

Rejection, the shortage of local job prospects, and the daily flood of op-ed’s from literary hopefuls-turned-overnight-savants have done little in the way of motivating me as it should. In lieu of kicking things into high gear, I get all gloomy. Quite often. When you work as often as we do—off-site freelancers, editors, etc.—a full-time opportunity is a far cry from reality.

As that dream dwindles, it becomes more anticipated than not to doubt whether the blood, sweat, and tears onset by rejection is truly a necessary evil of what feels like an endless uphill battle. Aiming at a too-far-away target. Ascending a flight of stairs only to misstep on a descending flight that materialized out of nowhere.

I will not post Gay’s entire rejoinder but rather leave you with a gem I found as heartbreakingly true as it is inspiring:

Throughout my 20s and most of my 30s, I was convinced I was never going to make it as a writer. My writing was constantly rejected, and I took the rejection personally, as one does. I’m stubborn, so I kept writing and reading and writing some more. It was the earlier days of the internet, before the rise of social media but after the dawn of blogs. I was fortunate in that I was aware of the writing community I wanted to be a part of, but I wasn’t inundated by the details of anyone else’s writing life and successes. If I wanted those details, I had to seek them out, which, of course, I did, and covetously.

Even as I met with less rejection, I found reasons to worry about getting my shot. It took a long time to sell my first novel, “An Untamed State,” nearly two years, two agents, two revisions, countless rejections. I kept whittling down my dream from literary fame to modest riches to just getting a book deal to, finally, simply writing a good book. And still my dream did not come true. I had done my best, and my best was not good enough. I nearly gave up, but I had someone in my corner who told me to get ahold of myself, to have faith, to keep writing and hustling because I was going to get my chance. She was right. She is always right. Now as she waits for her shot, I get to tell her to keep writing and hustling and having faith until she gets her chance. And she will.

*The excerpts above were extracted from the article “Ask Roxane: Is It Too Late to Follow My Dreams?”

You can read Gay’s full reply here.

Have a question for “Ask Roxane”? Send it here: askroxane@nytimes.com

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