On using your best material

by look i have opinions

“Years ago, I was talking to [Tony Earley] about his story, one of my favorite stories, ‘The Prophet from Jupiter.’ He said that he put everything he had into it. ‘I was tired of holding back,’ he said. His stories up to that point, he felt, had been good. But he wanted to write something truly great, an earth-shaker. So he put every last drop of himself, all of his best material, into a single story.

And it worked. ‘Prophet’ appeared in Harper’s, scored a National Magazine Award, and to this day is widely taught and anthologized.

There was a price. After he finished the story, he lay on the couch feeling emptied, carved out, certain he would never write anything again. This lasted for two weeks. And then the well filled back up.”

—Benjamin Percy (x)