The Writer’s Toil

Years ago, I read this installment of one of my favorite series, The Atlantic‘s “By Heart,” in which authors discuss their favorite literary works and one-liners. At the time, I don’t think I fully understood the Camus line Faye Weldon quoted. I just wanted to read an interview with a successful author and television writer (an ambition of mine that has since evolved).

But now that I’ve been writing more seriously for some time, I’ve become familiar with the less elegant, more frustrating parts of the craft. I’ve overcome some of it through discipline and learning to value my time in my worlds, which I’ve written about recently. Even so, working through a draft sometimes feels like dragging your legs through three feet of snow. You feel the resistance for days, and even this practice you love feels like toil. It’s just like Sisyphus pushing his boulder ad infinitum.

It’s self-love and hate like no other. And so we must “Imagine Sisyphus happy,” as Camus said. Every writer must be a masochist. But if we could do anything else and not go mad, we probably would. For me, writing has become the inevitable part of my life, and so I toil like other writers do, smiling through the agony to find my peace.

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