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?

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2 Responses to Should writers be ruthless?

  1. rcsambasivam says:

    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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