Martha McPhee on what a writer wants

“The thing about a writer is that want is part of the job description. Without want, a writer is nothing. A writer must want to sit alone at a desk for days on end. A writer must close out the world and wait. The reward is the chuckle, the quiet laugh that only the writer hears alone at her desk. She is laughing at her own work, her own imagination nailing a particular phrase because she knows, as one just knows some things, that the phrase, the scene, the story will make others laugh. Who among us, no matter her trade, has not made something bigger, at some point, simply by virtue of sticking with it? She must want this even while knowing that few others will care.

“But want, as we say, has a problem with boundaries. It bleeds. What young writer, sitting at her desk, doesn’t also crave to be in the world? The blue day, the summer heat, they pull her outside, toward shops and cafés, toward the land where life is real and filled with temptation and expensive desire: the cappuccino, the magazine, the taxi, the pretty dress. Want proliferates with age: she wants a baby, then another, then a babysitter to go with them, a house, a car, a good school for the kids, lessons, camps, more of those nice dresses, perhaps a better neighborhood to settle in. She’ll become practical, money for retirement, stocks, perhaps some bonds. She’ll want theater tickets, to dine with her friends, an office, books, a vacation, a new wedding band, another bedroom. On it will go from one thing from the next.”
Martha McPhee in “Dear Money”


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