Is it worth it?

The phrase I don’t like writing, but I like having written has previously been attributed to writer, critic and wit Dorothy Parker. There is doubt that Parker can be credited with this observation. It appears, instead, to have been 19th century author Frank Parker, who also added, in a letter discovered after his death that ‘[I] Hate the effort of driving pen from line to line, work only three hours a day, but work every day.’

No matter who coined the phrase, it means, we may suppose, that writing can be a slog. First, the blank page staring back at you. Then conjuring up the mental magic of inspiration, the getting the words onto paper, shaping them from thought into shared reality. Yet writers persist. Because somewhere, there is a glowing satisfaction to be had – of getting into the zone, perhaps, or of the completed text. When it’s been passed through the mill of creative production once and again. When it works. When it’s good enough to put out there.

Few jobs are without their ups and downsides – and being a writer, whether of fact or fiction, is ultimately a job. A paid one, if you are talented – and lucky. In such cases, there is the extrinsic motivation of financial reward. Take the author Colm Toíbín, for instance, who , when asked which of his books he most enjoyed writing answered: “No enjoyment. No, none,” and cited money as the most enjoyable aspect of a writer’s life. It’s an admission that is refreshingly frank.

Still, it’s interesting to note how many writers appear to have a love / hate relationship for quite different reasons, ones to do with the creative process. Ones that seem to drag themselves, apprehensive and reluctant, through their writing to reach the highs of success.

Novelist Elizabeth Jane Howard, for example, described writing as most ‘frightening’, finding it ‘much too anxious a business’. But she also admitted to being unable to stop because ‘When you write something which comes off, it’s a feeling like no other,’ and ‘It’s like being visited by something outside yourself.’ Which seems as good a description of being in creative ‘flow’ as any other.  Author Rose Tremain similarly observed that writing sometimes ‘does feel punishingly arduous’, but also that she had ‘found profound happiness and intellectual stimulation in the act of writing.’

So there is a satisfaction here, or a happiness, more intense perhaps than anything to be found elsewhere in life. Writer and scholar Gloria E. Anzaldúa answered the question ‘Why am I compelled to write?’  by saying: ‘Because the world I create in the writing compensates for what the real world does not give me.’  And ‘because I’m scared of writing, but I’m more scared of not writing.’

Whatever the gain, is it worth the pain? Only the writer can say.

Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash

20 thoughts on “Is it worth it?

  1. Interesting, i Actually Started Writing to Get my Mind off
    The Worst Pain Known to
    Humankind No Drug

    Would Touch, From
    Wake to Sleep, Type Two
    Trigeminal Neuralgia; Several

    MiLLioN Words And 33 Months
    Into the Escape A Creative Flow
    Of Meditative Free Verse Poetry

    Naturally Came And Transformed
    my Words Organic In Other Words
    They Became Human With Colorful

    (And So Did i)

    Emotions All The Pain And Numb
    Went Away Of A Synergy of 19
    Life Threatening Disorders…

    Every Word Now is Literally
    Heaven All 9.5 MiLLioN
    Words of The Longest
    EPiC Long Form Poem
    Ever in 95 Months Now

    And 15,133 Miles of
    Public Dance Free
    FLoWinG Meditation
    Coloring Heaven Same
    Since the Pain And Numb
    Went Away With The Start
    Of the “SonG oF mY SoUL”

    Heaven is What We Do

    When We Become

    A Dance and


    Of Life
    While Always
    Enough Ever Word
    Sacred Song Ever Step
    Holy Dance Naturally All


    Tasting Real
    ‘God’ 100 Percent
    Faith in Every Step, Word


    No Writer’s
    Block Or Living
    Dead HeaR Now



    And Song Breath
    Loving Free Now


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your lyrical response, your playful but candid way with words. ‘They Became Human With Colorful’: perfection. I am so sorry to hear of your pain, and hope that writing had indeed been salvation and release.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks So Much
        For The Inspiration
        With Asperger’s

        Syndrome on
        The Autism

        my Easter
        Egg Indeed
        Took All The

        Numb And Pain
        Away Hehe Graduating
        With A Triple Major at
        UNiVersity A 500 Word
        Essay i Struggled With
        Close to The Top of
        The Multiple
        Choice School

        Making A Firstly,
        Secondly, in

        More Than
        A Technical
        List of Bulleted
        Facts… Yes.. Change Is

        30 Years
        Grey Scale
        Pain And Numb
        Life New Colors in
        Rainbows Of Creativity

        It Just
        Took The


        To Humankind

        In Challenge

        To Unpack the
        More Colorful


        Potential in
        One Lifetime

        For me Then
        Space Tween



        Heaven Breathing Now
        MaKinG Miracles Real😊🎼


        1. Congratulations on your creation of your own life. This is close to home, I look at my boy, on the spectrum, looking forward to getting to university (college). I know school has been tough, socially, and because his obvious intelligence and enthusiasms often do not make their way into grades and the limited version of ‘intelligence’ the system requires. My heart squeezes in pain for him. If he can get to this next steps, I know he can go out there and build his life, in his way as himself.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. SMiles The Best Gift
            i See Are Loved Ones
            Who Never Give Up

            On Us

            No Matter
            What How

            Rare Unconditional
            Love How Healing

            How Life Saving

            How Life Giving

            When Staying


            To Always
            Give Share Care

            Honestly All i Wanted
            To Do Is Be Human

            i Suppose

            It is We Who
            Have to Achieve
            It Who See Being

            Human is Heaven
            Thanks Best Wishes
            To Your Son On The

            Spectrum Love Is Real😊

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Thank you so much. He’s so wonderful. You never want people to see your kids any other way but wonderful, too. Totally unrealistic! But yes, unconditional love is the answer.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. Yes Indeed
                Thanks to
                You too😊

                Liked by 1 person

  2. It would be interesting to know how many writers, in addition to Colm, do it strictly for the money.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am curious, too. The idea that ‘literary’ writers do it for passion and ‘genre’ / popular fiction writers for money is far too simplistic. I am torn between thinking Toíbín is either being very frank or mischievous.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. And there also are the writers that don’t write books. They far outnumber those that write books.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I guess in the latter, there’s much more ‘writing to order’ for the non-fiction writer. Writing for cash alone must be inevitable sometimes.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. A really interesting post
    I discovered some aspects of the writing process that I hadn’t thought of before

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Very well written. The dilemma of being a writer. Often when we are driven by the recognition bug it seldom spares but if writer writes to liberate the inner turmoil it is a dazzling profession

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I think where there is the creative drive, there is so much more than extrinsic motivation. In fact, material rewards are unlikely!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well put. Always lovely read your posts


  5. Love this so much. This is why I continue to write. I actually DO love the process. I don’t love the editing process as much. But I do typically like the result after the project is done. Having made only a limited amount in a professional capacity at a writer, I’m facing down my doubt to figure out ways to pursue that path more. And even if my first book sells less than 10 copies, the joy I’ve had in working on it keeps me going. 🙂


  6. There are some aspects of writing that I’m not the biggest fan of (editing, promoting, etc.). However, I never thought of liking “having written” vs. “writing.” While I feel above-average pride for some of my pieces, I definitely like writing!


  7. Is it worth it? Of course. Not monetarily of course. Few writers, very few can live on their writings.How many painters whose works now go at auction for millions of bucks died of misery? But once the story is out on paper… words were flying in the air, and you caught them and turned them into s story…
    Worth it? Absolument.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree that, critically, the internal motivation and satisfaction have to be found.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I remember clearly the first short story I wrote. “Piano”. I had it in my head. Took advantage of a business trip in NY and my very first laptop to see if “I could” write a short story. Something that “worked”. A nice feeling.


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