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Work Is Its Own Cure

January 11, 2010

From “For the young who want to” by Marge Piercy:

The real writer is one
who really writes. Talent
is an invention like phlogiston
after the fact of fire.
Work is its own cure. You have to
like it better than being loved.

(Don’t worry, I had to look up phlogiston, too.)

I love Piercy’s idea of what a writer is. To me, the process is just as–if not more–important than the product. I don’t write to attract an agent or please a publisher or even to be read. I write to write.

If I cared about publishing trends, I would, for starters, ditch the pirates. If I cared about selling to mass audiences, I would disarm my non-piratey characters of their atheistic tendencies. If I cared about not making anyone uncomfortable, I would excise all references to suicide, murder, and rape.

But if I did any of those things, I wouldn’t be writing my story.

And that’s why I write: because there’s a story in my head (in sappier moments, I might be inclined to say “in my heart”) that needs to get out. Because whenever I’m not intently focused on a specific, non-writing task, my characters crowd to the front of my head and tap on the inside of my skull to get my attention. Because I would miss this story and its inhabitants terribly if, for whatever reason, we were ever separated. Because I feel compelled to write, not to be on Oprah or the New York Times bestseller list. Because even if I’m the only person who ever reads this book, I will be proud and satisfied that I wrote it. Because the process helps, entertains, and educates me.

That’s why I write. Why do you?

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