“Real Job” vs. the Writing Job

12 Jan

A good reason to pursue a job to make money–and writing for the sake of writing, whether or not it earns you money. Now, if only there were a job with minimal stressors and hours which paid adequately enough to allow a writer the time to pursue “the stuff that won’t go away.”

As Jeffrey Eugenides writes in the New Yorker (Dec. 24, 2012):

The other trap you might fall into is to start thinking about money. “No one but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money,” said Samuel Johnson. Well—and I’ve never gotten to do this before—I’d like to disagree with Dr. Johnson. Once you start conceiving of your book as a commodity, you start thinking about readers as potential buyers, as customers to be lured. This makes you try to anticipate their tastes and cater to them. In doing so, you begin to depart from your own inclinations rather than respond to what the Irish novelist, Colm Toibin, has referred to as “the stuff that won’t go away.” “It seems that the essential impulse in working is … to allow what haunts you to have a voice, to chart what is deeply private and etched on the soul, and find a form and structure for it.” Facing up to what haunts you and finding a form and structure for it can never be a commercial enterprise. That stuff’s too chaotic and unpredictable, too messy and gorgeous, to fit a popular template. But it’s the source of your originality and may well prove popular in the end.

And, well, because everything in my life somehow relates back to Woolf, I’ll keep digging away at “the stuff that won’t go away,” even as I remember her supposed (and paraphrased) advice to a young poet: Don’t publish anything before thirty.

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