Who knows, I may have like the least amount of perspective on it. I mean this is one of the funny dismaying things is to find yourself the protagonist of that story about the guy who couldn’t get published. And then he won the Pulitzer, and you’re like wow.1 It’s like to be the protagonist of that narrative is just — it’s a little weird. And you have to kind of — again, you sort or — you have to step back from it a little bit.2 But the thing that I took from it is — because to me, the thing that — every good thing that’s happened to me, has happened because art is always the number one thing. It’s always about the writing. It’s always about — I’m an artist because this is how I want to be a person in the world.
Everything, all of my energy has got — and my concentration and focus, and all the calories that I’ve burned, has to be on how do you make good art?3 Reading the best art that you can, looking at the best art, listening to the best music, it’s all about art, art, art, art. Because one of the things that happened was, being rejected, and then having the rejected novel in the proverbial desk drawer for those four or five years, freed me in a way to write whatever I wanted to, because I just thought well, I’m going to write anyways, and so now if I’ve been rejected, I can just make art for art’s sake.4
So, then when Tinkers finally did get published, and then especially when it won the Pulitzer, winning the Pulitzer only sort of reinforced what I had been doing, which is I had spent the past five years making art for art’s sake, not for the sake of like what are editors like these days, what do readers want these days, I just wrote what I wanted to. And then lo and behold, it did better than I ever hoped. And so then when the inevitable sort of “Oh, you won the Pulitzer for your first novel, now here’s all this pressure. The sophomore book is going to stink inevitably” and all that kind of stuff.
I was just like I’d be trying to write a second novel anyways, and I’d be trying to write the best book I possibly could, whether Tinkers was still in the desk drawer or whether it won a Pulitzer prize.