Quite accidentally I discovered what appears to be such a generality. Occasionally in this business of writing a fellow is called upon to stand up before aspirants to the profession and utter magic words. Rarely are the words very magic; usually the writer states that it is a fine business, that editors read manuscripts and that one has to produce to sell. Beyond that the wise speaker never ventures for he would find himself as lonely as an eagle in the blue so far as understanding is concerned. Unless one has experienced editorial reactions, he cannot understand them. Unless one has been confronted with the woes of technique in their most Inquisitorial form, he cannot discourse upon relative merits. Unless one has a rather mysterious gift in the first place he cannot write at all. And so it goes.
But on this one particular occasion I was confronted with the epitome of impossibility. In so many words it was requested that I talk for forty-five minutes and tell all about the writing and marketing of short stories. And as one could talk for forty-five years without getting deeper than the surface of the subject, the cue was for laughter. Anytime men find themselves confronted with impossibles, they laugh.
Still, the thing was a challenge. To tell all about the writing and selling of short stories in forty-five minutes would be an alp to climb. And that I refused to climb it irked me. I dislike the acknowledgment of impossibilities. It couldnt be done and it never had been done and it never would be done....unless I could figure out some generality which would cover the whole subject in one grand sweep.
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