Hating to write is not so unusual in the writing business

In a recent Guardian interview with Colm Toibin (a 2008 VA Festival of the Book participant), the Booker-shortlisted author says, “I write with a sort of grim determination to deal with things that are hidden and difficult and this means, I think, that pleasure is out of the question.” Writing is “never fun,” according to Toibin, but it’s necessary.

The interview reminded me of something Dorothy Parker once told me: “I hate writing, I love having written.” Sometimes writing is what you have to do in order to get the monkey off your back. And sometimes you have to adopt another, more vicious monkey like a drinking problem in order to get the first monkey off your back. And either way you’re probably going to turn out an unpublished loser.

Speaking of writing quotes, Opium Magazine is collecting them as part of its Network of Writers Experiment. You have until 5 o’clock today to beat the following quote by “pr,” an HTML GIANT commenter: “If you are not getting ass fucked nightly by aliens, you will never be as good as Hemingway.”

8 Thoughts on “Hating to write is not so unusual in the writing business

  1. I dunno, I sometimes like to write. There’s that certain buzz you get when it’s really, really right. You change that one little word in that one little sentence and the whole thing becomes music.

    Of course, those moments are not common.

    And of course, I’m not a real writer, I just play one of the internet.

  2. Thank you for pointing out that a chimp is NOT a monkey.

  3. “And either way you’re probably going to turn out an unpublished loser.”?

    That variety of cynicism makes me feel dreadful. I can’t imagine the utility of defeatism in anyone’s life, a writer or anyone.

    I am unpublished, but I am not a loser. There are many like me. The losers are ones who succumb to the pain of it and give up. Call me Pollyanna, but being jaded just wears me out. Maybe because I don’t drink anymore … I’ll leave that to those more sophisticated than I.

    Gotta go clean up the table and help the kids with the Wii. Ain’t life a kick.

  4. Hey Cathy,

    Sorry about the loser comment. I agree that we can’t give up in this business. But I also think that it takes most writers a long time before they “make it,” and in the meantime they’ve got to have a sense of humor about being underrated. I’m an unpublished loser, but I’ll keep doing everything in my power to be a published loser one day. And anyway I find being a loser somewhat motivating. But I’m not cynical. No ma’am. Cynics don’t read sentences like “Gotta go clean up the table and help the kids with the Wii” and think “That actually sounds sort of great.”

    Promising I don’t think you’re a loser,

  5. Can you read minds, Wistar? I was just thinking about and wrestling with what it means to enjoy writing—or be a writer and enjoy life.
    And I took your loser comment in the best possible terms…

  6. Eh. I love to write and I don’t find it that hard. If anything I find it hard not to write. And I’ve never not been able to make money at it. Sometimes I don’t make as much as I’d like, but in general it all works out in the end.

    I think the best thing to do if you want to be a successful writer is to just do it.

    Of course it helps if you are an alcoholic semi sociopath like me who just doesn’t give a shit.

  7. “I hate writing, I love having written.”

    Dorothy got that from Oscar Madison. Perhaps being a total slob and eating a box car of cold cuts are part of the success formula.

    Any you’re just unpublished. Period. End of sentence. : )

  8. Tyler on March 8, 2009 at 8:34 am said:

    Speaking superficially, since I am a horrible shallow quasi-human, I will agree with the idea that writing is never fun. I compare it to pulling diamonds out of dense sewage. There’s all that vacuum pulling against you, it smells slightly worse than you (not you, of course, dear), and more than often you’re going to be yanked face-first into a pile of festering offal.

    Which is all my way of saying, from here on out, it’s light verse for me! Expect my latest offering, “Babbydaddy Laddy: Confessions of a Stay-at-Home Dad Who Does Heartwarming Things You’ll Want to Forward to Everyone on Your E-Mail List,” right after my child does some more adorable things! More grist for the Hallmark Mill!

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