“From a very early age, perhaps the age of five or six, I knew that when I grew up I should be a writer. Between the ages of about seventeen and twenty-four I tried to abandon this idea, but I did so with the consciousness that I was outraging my true nature and that sooner or later I should have to settle down and write books.” -George Orwell, “Why I Write“
Philip Roth says it sucks to be a writer. Elizabeth Gilbert says it’s the best job ever (of course, if you go flitting around the world eating, loving, and praying on a book advance, you can’t have too much to complain about). Who wins?
Avi Steinberg, who explained on The New Yorker blog that Roth’s warning to a young writer was a way of toughening him up, making sure he’s ready and willing to enter the guild.
“That’s the kind of a person it takes to be a writer: someone who’s zealous and ready to argue, someone who has Philip Roth tell him, “It’s torture, don’t do it,” and replies, “You had me at ‘torture.’ ” You don’t enter into it because it’s a great lifestyle decision—it isn’t—you do it because, for whatever reason, you believe in it, and you believe in it because, for whatever reason, you need to believe in it.”