“In matters like writing and painting, a man does what he has to do—if he has to write, why then, he writes; and if he doesn’t feel the urgent need of writing, there are dozens of professions in which it is easier to earn a comfortable living. Writing offers fairly large rewards to a few successful people, but the rewards come late, and most writers are failures.”

– Malcolm Cowley in response to a letter asking whether one should pursue an MFA.

In the comments section, novelist Helen DeWitt serves a searing retort:

“…if he has to write, why then, he writes…” This is roughly what my penultimate agent, Bill Clegg, had to say on the subject. This is not so much the romantic point of view as the addict’s point of view. Anyone familiar with the world of publishing will know that it’s bullshit. The writer who is literally an addict, the writer who can’t help himself, the writer who HAS to write, can never be anything but an amateur, because the industry requires the professional to put writing on hold not just for a day or two, or a week, but for years.

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