Because I had no subject to write about today, I wandered over to Arts and Letters Daily, a wonderful website that reports on current essays, articles and reviews. I read a fascinating review of Oliver Sacks’ latest book. I’ll plan to look at that again in the next day or two. But what really called out to me and, apparently, to dozens of others, was “We Ten Million” by Alix Christie from More Intelligent Life (
Somewhere in the world right now, ten million souls are hunched over their keyboards writing novels. Ten million hopeful scribblers in their holes. Good Lord, I’m one of them.
The author goes on to describe her own efforts to write and sell a novel. There wasn’t much new in her lament, but it elicited comments from many of the ten million. Some were resentful that she could complain when she was able to leave her day job in order to write (her husband was happy to support her). Some thought her self-pitying. Others responded especially to what had to be the most pungent part of her article:
We live in a time of extraordinary openness, when anyone with an internet connection can publish. Each time I go online or step into a bookstore, I am overcome by this tsunami of freshly published words. This torrent of expression inevitably provokes existentialism in a writer. What makes any of us think that we have something to say that others need to read?
Some of the responders were touched by her pain—they were immersed in the same struggle. They appreciated her optimism about her eventual success and cheered her on:
I couldn’t be more in agreement with you. We need to keep going and sooner or later we’ll find readers.
One person pointed out wistfully that there are still more readers than there are writers. (I wish I were more certain of that.)
The most rewarding responses for me were from those who claimed to write with no expectation of publishing, making money, or even, in some instances, of acquiring readers:
Those with a burning desire to write, write. Maybe it’s requiring a reward that is creating the problem.
Most of the comments can be summed up in a quotation from Isaac Babel — A writer writes, and another from Byron -If I don’t write to empty my mind, I go mad.
Perhaps my favorite comment was one that made me laugh out loud. Though wickedly, to be sure:
Now that we are all creative, who among us can make a living at it?
The only response to this from one of the commenters was:
What an amazing thing to say.
Which sums up my own feelings exactly.