Writing to live vs. living to write

In the case of food, eating to live is supposedly healthier than living to eat—an instruction attributed to Socrates. The latter implies an obsessiveness with food that borders on the unhealthy.

When it comes to writing, though, I’d rather live to write. I’ve been thinking about this recently as I spend time doing my paid job: helping a client with marketing communications, part of which involves creating (writing, editing, sending) an e-mail newsletter every six to eight weeks.

I love my client, with whom I have worked for almost 14 years, and often am intrigued by the newsletter topics. However, this kind of writing doesn’t beckon me in the same way my novel-in-progress does each morning. As challenging as the novel is (and this morning, believe me, it was gnarlier than a hungry caged lion), I can’t wait to sit down with it. Even when I’m fighting with it. Even when it’s coming after me with its teeth bared.

By contrast, while the newsletter is often fun and challenging, it exists on a completely different plane. It has no teeth. It doesn’t have a life of its own. Instead it waits for me breathe life into it. I write it to live (well, not completely, but to add a few dollars to the coffers).

I live to write my novel. If that makes me obsessed and a little neurotic, so be it. I’d venture to say it’s a sentiment shared by many writers of fiction and poetry.

One thought on “Writing to live vs. living to write

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  1. Obsessed and neurotic. Yep, I suppose that pretty much sums up most writers. But if they weren’t, how would novels ever get finished? As you said, facing a hungry lion can be challenging. Good for you for having the fortitude to tackle it every day, even in the face of outside demands!


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