March 11th, 2009


the pleasure of writing

Guardian article: There's more than one measure of success as a writer.

In which, author Patrick Ness says: "What is writing for? Colm Tóibín aside, why do we rarely, if ever, talk about writing solely for the pleasure of the act?" (In case you're not clicking through, on March 3rd, there was a post about Colm Tóibín in which he claimed to get no enjoyment from his work, but liked the financial sucess.) Ness goes on to wonder why writing can't be like playing a musical instrument, which made me laugh because that's come up more than once in my own conversations. And I've applied it to painting or other arts too. I get this impression that it's okay to play for your own pleasure without going pro, but that somehow that doesn't apply to writing. If you tell someone you're taking piano lessons, their first question isn't when you'll be playing with the Philharmonic or even the local church choir, but if you say you're a writer, they immediately want to know what you've published. Given the statistics of becoming a New York Times bestselling author, or a famous rock star, or of getting a gallery showing, this seems like rather a lot of pressure when one thinks about it. And one wonders if it takes away from the act itself. Why can't it be its own end?

So... what about writing - the act itself - do you enjoy the most? Is it the solitude of communing with your imagination? The act of creation? Getting to know a character you've never met before? What?

And, for those of you in the publishing trenches, did you used to enjoy writing, but now find that the goal of publication (whether for the first time or thereafter) gets in the way? And, if so, what do you think could help you re-acquire that old feeling?