A Pulitzer Prize Winner Struggles with His Genius

STORY BY Artie Vincent

Published: May 29, 2013

Junot Diaz constantly faced adversity in his life, from being poor as a child in Union, NJ in 1970s to the criticism following his first book, 'Drown,' in 1996. The struggles shaped his writing style, speed and creative efficiency.

He didn't think his biggest challenge would be himself. 

Diaz, a 2008 Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction, took 16 years to write his latest best-seller, 'This is How You Lose Her' mainly because he hated writing the book. 

In short, he hates writing short stories -- the book is a collection of short stories that catalog of lost love, violence and despair. Diaz told the New York Times that the narrator of the book is writing his 'Cheater's Guide to Love'. 

Needless to say, the book was a critical masterpiece -- mainly due to Diaz's penchant to overcoming and infusing personal trials and tribulations within his work. 

Like most novelists, Diaz is self critical. 

He described the writing experience as 'miserable, miserable' because he had a bad case of writer's block. He went he went through several versions of the final short of the book, Diaz stated in an interview with the New York Times last year.

In the article, Diaz mentioned he went through hundreds of unpublished pages and story titles like 'Primo' and 'Santo Domingo Confidential'. He believes his self-critical brakes were fully pressed. That's something that wasn't much of an issue on the award-winning and partially self-biographical, 'The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao'.

'Oscar Wao' put Diaz on the map, winning him the Pulitzer as well as a slew of awards. His 1996 novel 'Drown' earned re-appraisal as a result and is widely recognized as a landmark book -- critics initially ignored the book.

Last year, Diaz won the 'MacArthur Genius Grant' and received $500,000, but caught flack because book critics believe the grant should've gone elsewhere -- primarily because Diaz was already decorated author.

Unlike most undecorated novelists, Diaz suffered plenty personally like learning a new language -- it is major reason he remained stubborn in order to produce perfection like 'This is How You Lose Her.' 

He wrote an essay on oprah.com about his creative process, and delved into psyche when initially became a writer. He wrote how he "kept at it for five straight years. Five damn years. Every day failing for five years? I'm pretty stubborn, pretty hard-hearted character, but those five years of fail did a number on my psyche ... So I put the manuscript away. All the hundreds of failed pages, boxed and hidden in a closet. I think i cried as I did it. 

Diaz stated in the article that he 'jumped back down the rabbit hole again'. 

And he finished. 

"In my view a writer is a writer because even when there is no hope, even when nothing you do shows any sign of promise, you keep writing anyway."

 

Other Stories by Artie Vincent
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