Do You Enjoy Writing?

I like the writing very much. I often ask my writing friends if they like to write and they always say that they don’t. They love the research, perhaps the fun after a book is published, but not the task of writing. I think that it is the glory of the work. You have assembled all of this information. You have thought about it. You have dreamed about it. You’re ready. You are bursting with all of this and then you have this meticulous, but somehow not entirely rational, process of organizing it so that you communicate it transparently to other human beings. That is great fun.

—Richard Rhodes, interviewed by Brian Lamb on C-SPAN’s Booknotes.

I always liked writing when I was a kid. I like it less and less as I get older, but now it’s too late; I can’t do anything else. I can’t. When I was young, I just loved using words and writing about my feelings about this great diarist or great writer. But now that I have to do it to put food on the table, it’s not nearly as much fun. I never really wanted to do it seriously, as a way to make a living, until I was out of college. I had a number of failed attempts at other endeavors, except I didn’t fail up, I kept failing down.

—Andrew Ferguson, interviewed by Brian Lamb on C-SPAN’s Booknotes.

When I was about eight years old, my dad, who was a lawyer, told me: “If I had the time, I’d write you a short letter.”

He was a fan of Mark Twain and quoted him often. Dad also told me another Twain dictum: “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” From that time on, to write became fun for me.

Isaac Asimov had so much fun writing in his West Side garret that after a while it was just about all he did. I line edited a series of his syndicated science articles and he almost never disputed an edit because he was always on the lookout for another bolt of truth. All I’d have to say or note was, “Is there a better word?” and he hunted until he found it.

—Barney Collier is a former New York Times corespondent and bureau chief.


  1. Barnard Collier says

    I still love both lightning and lightning bugs.

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