I haven't written anything yet that makes me think, This is it! and I don't imagine I ever will. I don't know how it is with you, but when I finish something, even when I'm pleased with the results, it never quite matches the shimmering vision that was out ahead of me as I wrote.

— Debra Dean

The most gorgeous Debra Dean quotes that will transform you to a better person

Practicality continues to be a challenge for me - it's at odds with being an artist. I actually had a career on stage in New York - not a brilliant career or I'd still be doing it - but I got enough work to keep my agent and my union health insurance.

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If you have some other profession that allows you your evenings or weekends, terrific, stick with that. Having a profession other than writing also has the potential side benefit of providing you with material, something to write about.

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I loved short stories, and they were all I wanted to write.

I love the compression of them and the exactitude needed to get a whole world into such a small space.

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As a writer, the ideal job is the one that allows you time and mental space away from it. Teaching seemed to me like the obvious choice - those summers off, you know - but my experience may serve as a cautionary tale.

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I tell my students, if you're interested in marine biology or llama farming, follow that string. Yes, it will probably take you a longer time to write that book, but it's not a race. That's another great thing about being a writer: you don't age out.

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That requires quite an imaginative leap because it's hard for me to imagine that my biography would be of much interest to anyone, and because I'm a fairly private person, the notion doesn't appeal to me.

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When I left the theatre and turned to writing, one of the big pulls was that, unlike the theatre, I didn't have to wait to be hired before I could do my art. That was huge. But you still have to figure out how to support your habit; it's rare and lucky when art pays the bills.

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Whatever one may say about the perils of workshops, they help writers internalize an awareness of audience.

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One of the nice things about moving from acting to writing is that your work can be in the public eye without having to be in the public eye yourself. I guess that's not completely true. If you're lucky - and I have been - there are book tours and lectures. I don't have stage fright, and I enjoy meeting people, so that's easy and enjoyable, but it's not a constant, and it's not celebrity.

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I just can't fathom tweeting, and I'd rather spend my time writing a book than a blog, but I rather grudgingly agreed to a Facebook page. I had a brief, intense romance with Facebook. It's weirdly addictive, but anything that time-sucking is a danger for a writer who writes as slowly as I do. Now I post only occasionally and nothing very confessional. I think I'm carbon dating myself as I speak.

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I kept writing short stories and sending out my manuscript, and it kept coming back like a bad penny. It was rejected all over town, quite often in very complimentary terms, but rejected nonetheless. Agents would return it saying that they loved it but didn't think they could sell it, or they would ask if I could change the collection into linked stories.

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Once I had started, I discovered the secret pleasure of writing a novel.

It's such an immersive, deep commitment. With short stories, you're continually having to start again from scratch, but with a novel you only need one good idea every few years.

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About Debra Dean

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Profession Author

Before I got my present job, I spent many years teaching writing part-time, so-called, at community colleges and universities. It's academia's version of migrant labor.

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I worked every waking minute, nights and weekends, in order to make enough money to buy those summers off, and even then we wouldn't have made it except that my mother helped out with a yearly check and my father bought me a car when my old one die

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You're unusual. That's better than popular if you have some courage.

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With the historical fictions, I was already doing so much research, and so much of the stories was anchored by historical truth that the move to nonfiction didn't feel all that dramatic - just another half-step to the right.

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I think I was also afraid of the novel.

I write line by line, proceeding at snail's pace, rewriting as I go and paring the excess away. This is against all the best advice for writing long form prose, and I have tried over the years to break myself of the habit, but I can't bear to leave anything ungainly on the page and half the fun for me is that tinkering. So the length of a novel was a daunting prospect.

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Peculiar as I was, and remain, I was trained to be practical.

I'm still amazed at the radical temerity of my friends, you included, Julie, who choose poetry as their vocation. I envy your faith.

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Along the way, I've worked as a waitress, I've done phone surveys, and worked as a receptionist, and for the last twenty years I've taught. When I was an actor, the key was to find a job that kept your days free to audition.

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Unless you're Stephen King or Joyce Carol Oates, no one's going to recognize you on the street, and you're promoting your book, not yourself.

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If you had told me twenty years ago that I would write a novel set in Russia, much less two, I simply wouldn't have believed you. I had no familiarity with Russia or its history, but part of what drives me as a reader, and more and more as a writer, is curiosity, the desire to explore unfamiliar terrain and inhabit alternate lives.

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I always think, OK, this is good, but I'll do it better next time.

"And so we beat on, boats against the current. . ." It may not be the recipe for a life of contentment, but that imperfectability is what makes writing such an engaging endeavor, something you can do for the rest of your life and not get bored.

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If anything, I've found nonfiction a little easier.

You don't have to make anything up. Of course, that's the inherent difficulty as well: when you hit an information black hole, you don't get to make it up. That hasn't come up too often with this project though. I'm lucky to have tons of primary source material , reams of letters and diaries and memoirs.

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The trajectory of my writing has moved further and further away from autobiography. My first stories in Confessions of a Falling Woman worked familiar territory - places I had lived, people I knew, my life as an actor in New York - and many were prompted by or grounded in personal experience.

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I figured that to be a writer I would need to have been born in the nineteenth century, be British, or have three names. So I turned my sights elsewhere . . . to acting.

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