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The Writing Life: Wisdom from Andre Dubus

August 15, 2011

“A first book is a treasure. . . . An older writer knows what a younger one has not yet learned.

“What is demanding and fulfilling is writing a single word. . . . writing several of them which becomes a sentence.

“When a writer does that, day after day, working alone with little encouragement, often with discouragement flowing in the writer’s own blood, and with the occasional rush of excitement that empties oneself, so that the self is for minutes or longer in harmony with eternal astonishments and visions of truth, right there on the page on the desk; and when a writer does this work steadily enough to complete a manuscript long enough to be a book, the treasure is on the desk.

“If the manuscript itself, mailed out to the world where other truths prevail, is never published, the writer will suffer bitterness, sorrow, anger, and, more dangerously, despair, convinced that the work was not worthy, so not worth those days at the desk. But the writer who endures and keeps working will finally know that writing the book was something hard and glorious, for at the desk a writer must try to be free of prejudice, meanness of spirit, pettiness, and hatred; strive to be a better human being than the writer normally is, and to do this through concentration on a single word, and then another, and another.

“This is splendid work, as worthy and demanding as any, and the will and resilience to do it are good for the writer’s soul. If the work is not published, or is published for little money and less public attention, it remains a spiritual, mental, and physical achievement; and if, in public, it is the widow’s mite, it is also, like the widow, more blessed.”

–This quote, sent to me by a friend, appeared in Garrison Keillor’s blog “The Writer’s Almanac” post of 8/11/11. Andre Dubus (1936-1999) is considered one of the greatest American short story writers of the twentieth century. He is often compared to Anton Chekhov and revered as a “writer’s writer.”

One Comment leave one →
  1. August 16, 2011 9:55 am

    Thnks David 4 sharing this nice piece.


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