Without even being conscious of it, I must have had various ideas about how a short story was “supposed to be.” I remember being at my desk, writing one story (later called “The Princess and the Plumber”), and in the story the plumber is getting love advice from a frog who is contemptuous of how the plumber is going about wooing a princess. I remember feeling this inner obligation to continue the dialogue between the plumber and the frog, even though I didn’t know what else they had to say to each other. Still, it felt like the conversation should continue on for at least another few paragraphs. Then I suddenly realized that there was nobody looking over my shoulder, and that nobody had any greater authority over what should happen next than I did, and the “me” to follow was the one who had run out of dialogue at that moment. That I should trust this “running out of dialogue” — not assume it was because I was stupid, but rather take it to mean that this part of the story was done. I wrote: “The plumber looked at the frog a moment longer, then turned and walked towards the bus shelter.” It was so freeing to have the plumber just walk away, and the rest of the story came swiftly — I just continued on following my impulses absolutely. It was the first time, writing, I had a sense for how total a writer’s freedom is. I don’t think that ever completely went away, and it seems the biggest leap I made: from thinking I had to write in a certain way to realizing that nobody was there with me as I was sitting at my desk — and for good reason — because your only obligation is to listen to yourself.

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