I was listening to “Need To Know” the other day, and I was slightly horrified to hear both Mona Charen and Jay Nordlinger announce that they dislike writing. In fact, they went so far as to suggest that almost nobody likes to write, except for George Will, who is strange.
Seriously? The world is full of professional writers who don’t like to write? I can’t understand this. I mean, I was familiar with the “I like having written” quote, which I have at various times heard attributed to William Buckley, Gloria Steinem, Oscar Madison and Earnest Hemingway. Obviously many people share the sentiment. But for me, writing has always been one of life’s great pleasures, and the thing (along with reading) for which I never seem to have enough time. It’s odd that people who are so good at it don’t feel the same way.
I’m not exactly a professional, of course, and I realize that that might make a difference. The joy of the amateur often evaporates under the burning sun of professional obligation. Still, I did spend several years slogging my way through a dissertation. Dissertation-writing may represent writing at its least satisfying, being arduous, hideously time-consuming and almost certain to go unread by anyone not contractually obligated to read it. Nonetheless, I emerged with my enthusiasm undimmed. Writing columns sounds quite enjoyable to me, so it’s perplexing that the people who do it don’t seem to think so.
I understand, of course, that writing can be aggravating. You can spend a whole morning working on a single paragraph, and then come back after lunch to decide that it’s pretentious drivel that needs to be thrown out. No matter how perfect a passage may seem, you know that it could betray you tomorrow. Nevertheless, I find the struggle to be endlessly invigorating. And surely all professional writers appreciate the joy of clothing one’s thoughts in words? Is it just obligatory at this point for professionals to claim that they hate writing?