On the Necessity of a Writer to Write

I had the pleasure of reading through the notebook which contained the grand majority of my posts written since Christmas.  Looking over them gave me a definite pleasure, as looking over one’s past accomplishments does.  My firm hope is to fill many more notebooks in the same manner; to which end, I have purchased five more Clairefontaine notebooks.

Painting of Dostoyevsky

Painting of Dostoyevsky

Which brings me to the question of why I bother to write so many articles, especially those posts which have only the slightest chance of drumming up interest: posts on old anime, obscure old authors, and unpopular figures in American history.  Part of it has to do with my love of the Great Conversation (n.b. the kind between authors, not the one held in purgatory), the delight of sharing what I know, the delight of someone revealing my ignorance, the joy of hitting the sublime, and the happiness of knowing that my words made someone else happy.  But, there is also a negative impetus on my writing: melancholy, envy, and misanthropy start to darken my soul if I do not write–especially if I do not write artfully.  Here’s a certain proof of the artistic temperament: one can neither be charitable, content, or unselfish unless they get their art out of their head and onto the page.

Philosophy, religion, and human nature--the components of the Great Conversation.  All of them are found in Plato.

Philosophy, religion, and human nature–the components of the Great Conversation. All of them are found in Plato.

Melancholy seems to be the primary affliction of artists and writers alike.  The only ones who avoid it are those who write or paint to the fullest powers of their ken.  For example, has one ever heard of Shakespeare becoming melancholy?  On the other hand, writers with stretches of time where they do not produce are those most prone to insanity or melancholy: Hemingway, Cowper, Hesse, etc.  Though, I have no doubt that the hatred showered on Hesse by the militant German public in WWI for his pacifism produced the need for Hesse to be admitted into an asylum and subjected to shock therapy.  (Does the latter really work?)

Herman Hesse

Herman Hesse

This brings me to another curious feature of writers: the need to be praised.  As Mark Twain once wrote: “I can live on a good compliment two weeks with nothing else to eat.”  This is a great weakness, as I often find myself anxious about whether a piece has been well received.  Instead of rolling up the time with vexation or allowing praise to puff up my ego, writers should simply busy their minds on the next task.  But in our defense, how else will we know whether we have written something worthwhile or need to go back to the drawing board?  If all the lights go on, an electrician knows he has done a good job; if there are no leaks, the plumber is satisfied; and if the beer is flavorful and refreshing, the brewer has a smile on his face.  When the last word is placed on the page, a writer is happy because the work is done.  But, many questions still swirl in the writer’s head: will no lights go one in readers’ minds?  Is the logic and plot rather full of holes?  Will there be a smile on the reader’s face at the end of it?

Why do my dear readers writer?

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