When TC Boyle Treats Your Success as a Fiction Writer as if It's Inevitable when It's Not but You Really Want it to Be

A few weeks ago, I was chatting with my Turkish friend Marve(y) on campus. It was one of those perfect, idyllic LA days + I was laughing about, fuck I dunno, something, when Tom walked up to me + said: --I recognize that laugh a mile away.
--Hey Tom, I said. Oh Tom, this is my friend Marve(y)
--Hello, she said, blushing.
--Hi, nice to meet you, he said. Then, turning to me: Jackson, he said, stop by my office sometime. Let's talk.
--Okay, cool, I said.

The moral of the story is: When TC Boyle goes out of his way to say hi to you + tells you to stop by his office, you fucking stop by his office.

The next week, I did just that + went to his office.

--So, he said, what did Georges say?
--He said that he was impressed with my writing but also had some concerns that I had too many narrative strands in Ninjas, but he didn't want to prejudge, so he told me to send him the whole manuscript once I was done.
--Good, he said, smiling.
--Of course, it won't be ready for a year until I have a definitive draft. I'm only to page 200.
--Me too, but anyways, that's good that he wants to read the whole thing.
--Yeah, I guess so. How fast do you crank out a novel?
--Pretty fast. I'm working on a historical novel right now about the San Juan islands. I think we already talked about this.
I nodded.
--Listen, I was talking to Sandra Dijkstra. Are you familiar with her?
The truth is, I was trying to figure out whether my friend from Glenn Loomis Elementary School, Greta Dijkstra, had changed her first name + was friends with Tom for some bizarre reason. Finally, I decided that didn't make any sense, because, truthfully, it doesn't. I shook my head.
--She's a good agent. Tough, but very good. She asked me if I had any writers I could recommend to her. So maybe if it doesn't work out with Georges. . . Anyway, check out her website.
--Wow, awesome. Thanks Tom.
--The crazy thing is, I said, on the same day I got Georges's response, I also got a solicited email from the Irene Goodman Literary Agency.
Tom gave me a blank face.
--They do commercial, literary, genre + literary non-fiction.
--Oh, that's normal. Even Georges did a workout book with Jane Fonda.
--Really? I said, incredulously.
--Sure, why not? Some things just fall on your lap like that.
He nodded.
--They asked for the whole manuscript of BLANK + also an outline of Ninjas.
--They're going to pick you up, he said.
--I dunno Tom, I'm playing it cautiously.
--Well, this is great. Maybe it'll work out with Georges. But if not, this might just be perfect for you. Or you can send something to Sandra.
--I also sent my story collection to Greywolf.
--Oh, he said, great press. I think that's a great idea: publish your stories with Graywolf + then get one of your novels out there. That's the way to go.

I love Tom, I really do + I especially appreciate how he talks about my own success as a fiction writer as if it's inevitable. It's a beautiful, wonderful thing to have someone like him giving you that kind of encouragement. But right now, at least for right now, it doesn't feel inevitable. I'm not being pessimistic (it's not my thing at all). I'm just being cautious. A secret part of me feels that it will happen--all of it--but admitting that out loud makes you sound arrogant + cocky + when it comes to this industry, I'm neither. Still, you have to believe things are going to work out. Otherwise, you stop hoping. And when you do that, you start writing solipsistically (or you stop writing--something I could never do), which means, you ignore everything that's flawed + amazing + impossible + heartbreaking about this world. Then you're really fucked.