The Writer's Den

UCLA's creative writing student group

Should writers be ruthless?



Do you mean the writer should be completely ruthless?


The writer’s only responsibility is to his art. He will be completely ruthless if he is a good one. He has a dream. It anguishes him so much he must get rid of it. He has no peace until then. Everything goes by the board: honor, pride, decency, security, happiness, all, to get the book written. If a writer has to rob his mother, he will not hesitate; the “Ode on a Grecian Urn” is worth any number of old ladies.

William Faulkner, The Art of Fiction No. 12

I’ve heard countless suggestions and accounts from writers that a writer does everything and sacrifices everything to be a writer. I remember my creative writing professor saying that because her husband could not respect her writing sanctuaries, the “husband” became a “has-been.”

I respect writers who devote all they have to their art. And that’s a major reason why I’m terrified to even think about writing as a career. It will take everything, and I don’t know if I’m insane enough for that yet.

What do you think? Does writing necessarily demand your full attention? If so – are you willing to risk it all for your craft life?


2 thoughts on “Should writers be ruthless?

  1. If it truly truly makes you happy. And doesn’t loosen your grip on reality.

  2. In my opinion, Faulkner’s comment demonstrates how easy the act of writing, as well as being a writer, is to romanticize, which is a trap. One can find themselves thinking, ‘Gosh, I’m enjoying writing this story/poem/article etc, but since I’m not hunched over a typewriter, knocking back bourbon, forgetting to shower, and suffering for my art this piece is somehow less significant.’

    It isn’t.

    So to cast my vote, don’t rob your mother. I don’t think it’s necessary, and it certainly isn’t very nice.

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