Writing Inspiration: Alice Munro

Alice-Munro1Last Thursday, at 82 years old, Canadian writer Alice Munro won the Nobel Prize in Literature. For those of us who look up in horror to writers like Keats, who wrote all of his brilliance before he died at age 25, and published all of his work over a period of four years, the literary life of a writer can appear pretty bleak. Either you’re a prodigy, a quickly rising star, or you’re doomed to a life of drudgery and rejection. Not so with Alice Munro. She is an inspiration for writers everywhere.

Munro published her first story collection Dance of the Happy Shades when she was 37 years old. At that point she was married and the mother of three daughters, but she still found time to write, and continued to, despite health setbacks, up until her most recent collection Dear Life in 2012. “In 20 years, I’ve never had a day when I didn’t have to think about someone else’s needs,” Munro said. “And this means the writing has to be fitted around it.”

I feel like I can never complain about the writing life again. Munro’s success wasn’t instant. She wasn’t wealthy, didn’t graduate from college, and didn’t have an ideal life setup for writing. But she wrote anyway. If Munro could do it, and write so masterfully, then maybe there is hope for the rest of us. Snatches of time – around jobs and family obligations – can be enough. Writing success, however you define it, can come at any time. But only if you continue to write. Maybe there’s a crying baby down the hall. Maybe you have to work late and can only get to the computer for half an hour at night. Maybe you’ve been writing for 20 years without a single publication. Pull a Munro. Write anyway.

What about you, readers? What do you admire about Alice Munro? Were you pleased with this year’s Nobel Prize selection? Which authors do you look up to? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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