Writing can be tough. No matter how much we all love it, writing can often feel like an activity designed specifically to rile us up and leave us frustrated, trying to determine effective synoyms for 'anguish'. No one knows these feelings quite like established writers, who have fought tooth and nail to get their writing into the public spotlight. I think it's important to look to established writers for guidance or a sense of what we should (or could) be doing as writers in order to achieve our ultimate goals, whatever they may be.
To that effect, I want to highlight a writer who has not only been through the struggle to make it to their station in life, but who is also actively involved in helping other young writers to achieve similar goals. Dave Eggers is that writer.
Eggers is probably most recognized for his best-selling, somewhat fictionalized memoir "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius". Published in 2000, the book documents how Eggers had to assume parental responsibilities for his younger brother Christopher (referred to as Toph) after the deaths of both their parents in 1992-3. At only 21, Eggers had become responsible for the raising of an 8-year-old, as his two older siblings did not have the time to commit to it. The book discusses how Eggers tried to maintain a balance between beginning his career as a writer and raising Toph in San Francisco. This included working as an editor for Salon.com and founding Might magazine.
In 2002, Eggers published his first novel, "You Shall Know Our Velocity". It is the story of two young men and their haphazard quest to give away money to people who deserve it while on a trip across the world. The novel has been re-adapted twice, in 2003 as "Sacrament", and again later as "You Shall Know Our Velocity!" with the included extra material from "Sacrament."
Since his debut novel, Eggers has published several other works, both fiction and non-fiction, of varying lengths. Some of his most recognizable works are "Zeitoun", a non-fictional work about Abdulrahman Zeitoun, a Syrian immigrant who lived in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina and attempted to help his neighbors during the crisis, only to be arrested and subject to significant abuse, "What is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng", which, like Eggers' own memoir, is a fictionalized account of Deng's flight from Sudan, through refugee camps, and ultimately into the United States as one of the Lost Boys of the Sudan.
Eggers has also written fictional novels, such as "The Circle" and "Hologram for the King", both of which were met with critical acclaim.
More than just his work as an author, Eggers has also been active as a publisher and philanthropist. He founded McSweeney's, a non-profit publishing house that publishes "Timothy McSweeney's Quarterly Concern", a quarterly literary journal. It has expanded to publish novels and poetry chapbooks, among other things.
Eggers also co-founded 826 National, an organization specifcally designed to help kids ages 6-18 with expository and creative writing projects. The organization emphasizes writing as the key to a successful future, offering one-on-one tutoring amongst other services to help kids pursue the craft of writing.
Through 826 National, Eggers also founded the ScholarMatch program, an organization that pairs potential donors with students in the attempt to make college more affordable for students.
Eggers has shown in his writing as well as his personal life that struggle and failure are necessary elements to finding success in whatever you do. Eggers had to deal with some of the worst possible conditions as he developed not only professionally, but personally. He encountered setbacks and doubts, but ultimately he has been tenacious and perseverant in his pursuit of his dream, and now works to encourage youth to be the same. We can all take a leaf from Eggers' book and remember not to get bogged down by setbacks, but treat them as a stepping stone to something greater.