“Throughout my life I lacked confidence, I doubted my talent
(even writing that word talent gives me the willies), and I feared rejection. When I started college, I decided to major in psychology (I think everyone decides that initially), then I switched to Spanish (for which I have no facility whatsoever) and ultimately to English because in English classes I could read novels and plays, which was what I loved to do. During this time I continued to write – short stories, mostly – but I showed them to no one. Instead, I avoided creative writing classes (save two that I took at Foothill Community College in the late sixties) and instead went on to get my teaching credential in English and, later, my master’s degree in counselling/psychology. “As you can no doubt diagnose, all of this also constituted an elaborate avoidance device. I call it the Divine Dance of Avoidance and its steps are defined by the following truths: one cannot simultaneously teach English at the high-school level and write novels, since teaching English well at the high-school level is generally a twelve-hour-a-day job. Also, one cannot write a novel while one is attempting to teach English at the high-school level and work on one’s master’s degree in an unrelated field.
“So I was able to avoid my calling, desire, and need to write for a number of years*. But there was a problem.
“When I avoid something that I know I must do, I end up feeling guilty.“
*Elizabeth left education after thirteen and a half years when she sold her first novel, A Great Deliverance, to her longtime publisher Bantam Books.