Friday, January 29, 2010

The need to write

by Rachel

While reading the many articles dedicated to the late (need I mention great and extremely talented) J.D. Salinger, I came across a story published in the Australian, which touched upon Salinger and his need to write. In today’s celebrity-obsessed culture, writes Erica Wagner, Salinger did not write because publication awaited him, but “because a real writer writes because he must.”

This sentiment is echoed in a Telegraph article, where it mentions the rumors--persisting for 45 years--that although Salinger shied away from publishing, he was still very much writing and that there could be as many as 10 novels tucked away in his safe.

But perhaps most interesting, in a New York Times article, Verlyn Klinkenborg explains that “to send a work out into the world, was, to Mr. Salinger, an intrusion”--which posed the question: is it really possible to be a writer without publishing?

It’s interesting to read about the many sides of J.D. Salinger’s life, but what really struck me was the fact that for many decades, this incredible author wrote purely for the sake of writing, because he had a need to write--he was not putting pen to paper for literary awards or outside praise. This kind of passion is what will make me enjoy reading his books for years to come.


  1. Fundamentally, I think this is the approach every successful author takes. Even if someone really believes they have the next great American (insert any other country here) novel, although they may consider the money aspect, ultimately they believe they have a story that needs to be told. I'm not saying their belief is always accurate, but at the base level, real writers write because there is a burning story(ies) in their head that they have to get out on paper. Some are lucky enough that other people think their story is worth sharing.

    If someone decides to write a novel because they are going to make tons of money, they are in the completely wrong industry and never will be successful.

  2. "If someone decides to write a novel because they are going to make tons of money, they are in the completely wrong industry and never will be successful."

    So the truth.

    I don't know a single published or aspiring-to-be-published writer who writes a novel for the money. Some people are content to never publish. Some what to share the stories with the world. Sure it's great that someone's willing to pay you for your work, but I think we all write the stories we want to read first of all.

  3. When I'm writing - seriously writing - I actually get an adrenaline rush. So yes, I think it's fair to say that some people need to write the way others need to jog.

    It doesn't matter if you never win a marathon. As long as you are jogging, you are still an athlete.

  4. Unless they suck.

  5. Writing gives me a rush too. But I can't imagine writing work that I will never have the pleasure of showing others. I can't help but believe that publishing and then weathering the inevitable criticism helps an author grow.

    I loved Salinger's short stories and 'Franny and Zooey'. And of course he had every right to guard his privacy. But I wonder what other work he had in him and what he might have accomplished if he hadn't led such a cloistered life.