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If you like N. Scott Momaday's story, you might also like:
Ernest J. Gaines,
Louise Glück,
Norman Mailer,
W.S. Merwin,
James Michener,
Frank McCourt,
Fritz Scholder
and Wole Soyinka

N. Scott Momaday can also be seen and heard in our Podcast Center

N. Scott Momaday's recommended reading: Smoky the Cow Horse

N. Scott Momaday also appears in the videos:
Justice and the Citizen: MLK, Vol. 2
What is a Hero?
From the Indian Reservation to the Inner City

Teachers can find prepared lesson plans featuring N. Scott Momaday in the Achievement Curriculum section:
The Novel
Poets & Poetry

Related Links:
Royce Carlton

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Scott Momaday
Scott Momaday
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Scott Momaday Interview (page: 4 / 5)

Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

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  Scott Momaday

How do you deal with self doubts, with fear of failure when you work?

Scott Momaday: Again, I think it's just waiting, because that fear will diminish if you give it time. I have had self doubts.

I think that's probably part of it too, all writers, probably, are a bit insecure all of the time, and very insecure much of the time. But you work against that. That's just how the game is played. You can't let yourself bog down permanently into such a state of despair, or ennui, or whatever it is. You have to work against it. We get back to the idea of the writer having to write. I once read something by Kafka, a letter. He said something to this effect: "God doesn't want me to write, but I have to write." And so there's this terrible tug of war, and you know who wins, but I can't help it, it's just something I have to do. And that's pretty much my philosophy, too.

[ Key to Success ] Passion

No matter what field you're in, you can't please all the people all the time. Writers, especially, are subjected to critics. How do you deal with criticism?

Scott Momaday Interview Photo
Scott Momaday: I deal with it very well now. There was a time when I didn't. When I first started publishing, I was deeply concerned with what other people thought of my writing, but I then came to realize, just as you've said, that a lot of people are not going to like what you do, no matter what it is. If some do, you're all right. I was extremely lucky, because early in my career I was given a lot of recognition.

When I got the Pulitzer Prize, it did inhibit me in certain ways but, at the same time, it alleviated a lot of the problems that come with being a young professor. I no longer had to worry about publishing or perishing. I did have to worry about junk mail and getting invitations to ladies garden societies. That still goes on, that's the negative side of it. But I established myself very early, and that was a good thing. It sort of cleared the way for my work. When I finally could get back to writing, I was free to do it.

Scott Momaday Interview Photo
Does criticism affect your work, affect your ideas?

Scott Momaday: No longer. At one time it made a difference, I paid close attention to it. Now I don't so much. There are a lot of things written about me and my work that I don't read,. People will say, "What did you think of that article?" And I say, "I don't know, what did it say? Who said what about my writing?" I don't pay much attention to it now. I think I'm better off, because it's dangerous to go around reading opinions of your work, of your worth. You can get in trouble doing that. It's best to shut that off and get on with your work.

Regardless of the field, what personal characteristics do you think are most important for success or achievement? What's it take?

Scott Momaday: I think it takes a lot of resolve. You have to believe in what you're doing, and you have to do it to the best of your ability. That calls for reaching down inside yourself and coming up with resolve, determination. That may be the most important thing, as I think of it. Writing is a way of expressing your spirit. So there's much more to it than the question of material success. You are out to save your soul after all, and be the best thing that you can be in your whole being. In the Plains culture, which is my ancestral culture, and a warrior culture, there were four principles. A warrior had to live by these principles: bravery, fortitude, generosity and virtue. When I learned about those principles, they have been extremely important to me, you know. I would like to live my life according to those four things. I would like to do it in my writing, as well as in my other activities. That's what I believe. I would and do tell students, writing is the expression of your spirit, but you must live by certain ideals, and they must inform not only your writing, but the way in which you have breakfast with your mate, as well.

[ Key to Success ] Integrity

What do you think you know now about achievement that you didn't know as a young writer?

Scott Momaday: For one thing, I know that it's artificial in some ways. Acclaim is good and I love being acclaimed.

I like for my work to be recognized and appreciated. But in a greater sense, I think it's taken too seriously by many people. It begins to be an end in itself, and that's wrong. If you can do your own work and satisfy your own demands, then the acclaim -- you know -- if it's there, it's great, if it's not, it doesn't matter that much. As long as you can be true to yourself, and save your own soul, that's what really matters.

[ Key to Success ] Integrity

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This page last revised on Feb 05, 2008 17:24 EST
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