“One life at a time, please,” Edward Abbey
A literary career should be not a career but a passion. A life. Fueled in equal parts by anger and love. How feel one without the other? Each implies the other. A writer without passion is like a body without a soul. Or what would be even more grotesque, a soul without a body.
There is a middle way between subserving the mass market and pandering to our Jamesian castrati literati. You do not have to write endless disquisitions about computer science professors seeking God while pursuing faculty wives. You do not have to write about male mutilation, lesbians in bearskins, Toyota dealers, or self-hating intellectuals longing for hierarchy, to work and live happily as a writer in America. God bless her such as she is.
You do not need to be analyzed, psychoanalyzed, Rolfed, e-s-t-ed, altered, gelded, neutered, spayed, fixed, acupunctured, Zenned, Yogied, New Aged, astrocharted, computerized, megatrended, androgynized, evangelized, converted, or even, last and least, to be reborn. One life at a time, please.
What is both necessary and sufficient – for honest literary work – is to have faith in the evidence of your senses and in your common sense. To be true to your innate sense of justice. To be loyal to your family, your clan, your friends and – if you are lucky enough to have one – your community. (Let the nation-state go hang itself.) Among the Americans, read Walt Whitman, Mark Twain, Henry Thoreau, Theodore Dreiser, Jack London, B. Traven, Thomas Wolfe, John Steinbeck, Nelson Algren and Dr. William Carlos Williams. For example. Emulate them until you find others emulating you. And then go on.
Why write? How justify this mad itch for scribbling? Speaking for myself, I write to entertain my friends and exasperate our enemies. I write to record the truth of our time as best as I can see it. To investigate the comedy and tragedy of human relationships. To oppose, resist, and sabotage the contemporary drift toward a global technocratic police state, whatever its ideological coloration. I write to oppose injustice, to defy power, and to speak for the voiceless.
I write to make a difference. “It is always a writers duty,” said Samuel Johnson, “to make the world better.” I write to give pleasure and promote aesthetic bliss. To honor life and praise the beauty of the natural world. I write for the joy and exultation of writing itself. To tell my story.