Colson Whitehead on Gen X, Friendship and The Best Skill a Writer Can Have

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“It was 1991. We’d just been diagnosed as Generation X, and certainly we had all the symptons, our designs and life plans as scrawny and undeveloped as our bodies. Sure, we had dreams. Dan had escaped college with a degree in visual arts, was a cartoonist en route to becoming an animator. Darren was an anthro major who’d turned to film, fancying himself a Lynchian auteur in those early days of the indie art-house wave. I considered myself a writer but hadn’t got much further than wearing black and smoking cigarettes. I wrote two five-page short stories, two five-page epics, to audition for my college’s creative-writing workshops and was turned down both times. I was crushed, but in retrospect it was perfect training for becoming a writer. You can keep ’write what you know’—for a true apprenticeship, internalize the world’s indifference and accept rejection and failure into your very soul.”

-Colson Whitehead, in the latest issue of Harper’s (subscription required), on friendship, his early career, and a trip to Las Vegas. Read more from Whitehead in the Longreads Archive.

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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