Writers on Writing: The Hardest Profession in the World?

Writing Novels That Sell with Adrienne deWolfe

I don’t know why fiction writers seem so eager to express angst.  It seems like the lion’s share of wit and wisdom expressed by authors, who are writing about their profession, focuses on one primary theme:  that writing novels is HARD.

For example:

“Writing is so difficult, that I often feel that writers, having had their hell on earth, will escape all punishment hereafter.”

~ Jessamyn West


Or how about:

“Writing a book is a long, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”

~ George Orwell

(Good grief!)

Then there’s the ever-popular stereotype of authors as wastrels and derelicts:

“Coleridge was a drug addict. Poe was an alcoholic. Marlowe was killed by a man whom he was treacherously trying to stab. Pope took money to keep a woman's name out of a satire then wrote a piece so that she could still be recognized anyhow. Chatterton killed himself. Byron was accused of incest. Do you still want to be a writer - and if so, why?”

~ Bennett Cerf

Honestly, folks.  Writing isn’t THAT hard!  Sure, writing novels takes perseverance.  And imagination.  And dedication to honing your skills.  But so does cutting an eyeball with a surgical laser.  Or teaching children with nano-second attention spans.  Or designing a skyscraper that won’t topple over in a hurricane.  Every profession has its level of difficulty.

Besides, if writing novels was easy, EVERYONE would be doing it.  (I prefer to think of my trials and tribulations as job security.)

I love to create characters and plan story plots.  I’m just geeky enough that at the last minute, I’ll send my regrets to the hostess of a Saturday night party because my Muse started whispering a new story idea in my ear. 

I think novel writing is WAY more fun than sitting in a corporate office, filling out oodles of reports to make the boss happy.  Or waiting tables for tips.  Or dialing 100+ homes a day (and getting hung up on) because you’re working in a call center.  (And yes, I speak from personal experience.)

So let’s look at the profession of writing through the eyes of some optimistic authors:

“Writing’s not terrible. It’s wonderful. I keep my own hours, do what I please. When I want to travel, I can. But mainly, I’m doing what I most wanted to do all my life.”

~ Raymond Carver

“The only thing I was fit for was to be a writer, and this notion rested solely on my suspicion that I would never be fit for real work, and that writing didn't require any.”

~ Russell Baker

“Writing is turning one’s worst moments into money.”

~ J. P. Donleavy

“It is the writer who might catch the imagination of young people, and plant a seed that will flower and come to fruition.”

~ Isaac Asimov

“We do not write because we want to; we write because we have to.“

~ Somerset Maugham

“I get up in the morning, torture a typewriter until it screams, then stop.”

~ Clarence Budington Kelland

“This manuscript of yours that has just come back from another editor is a precious package. Don't consider it rejected. Consider that you've addressed it 'to the editor who can appreciate my work' and it has simply come back stamped 'Not at this address'. Just keep looking for the right address.”

~ Barbara Kingsolver

“If you’re a singer, you lose your voice. A baseball player loses his arm. A writer gets more knowledge, and if he’s good, the older he gets, the better he writes.”

~ Mickey Spillane

“If you’re a real writer, you’ll write no matter what.”

~ Irwin Shaw