The Writer’s Contract

“It’s not really a choice; you made the commitment a long time ago.”

Hunter S. Thompson

As early as third grade, I knew I wanted to be a writer. The truth about what influenced this choice is both plural and unclear, but the decision was irrevocable. And though the expectations for what it means to be a “writer” may have changed—both in my mind and in the world—my desire to be valued as one is still strong.

But writing is hard, and getting paid to do it is even harder. The urge to do something less arduous or more widely appreciated has always been tempting. Studying the art of writing guarantees nothing at the end of its journey (if there is an end)—so why do it? Thompson’s above quote illustrates why a struggling writer does not give up: commitment.

Charlie Rose interviews Thompson on June 13, 1997 (Skip to 8:15 to hear quote.)

Through my own journey (up that literary ziggurat in the library), I’m often reminded of a platitude: The more you learn, the more you realize you don’t know. But every once in a while, I look down and recognize how high I’ve climbed. I may not have written the great American novel or contributed any work to the New Yorker, but through my efforts I understand a lot about writing, grammar, rhetoric, persuasion, and narrative that many others do not. It sounds like I’m still honoring my contract.


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