Try to Develop Actual Work Habits

To the young writers, I would merely say, “Try to develop actual work habits, and even though you have a busy life, try to reserve an hour say—or more—a day to write.” Some very good things have been written on an hour a day. . . . So, take it seriously, you know, just set a quota. Try to think of communicating with some ideal reader somewhere. Try to think of getting into print. Don’t be content just to call yourself a writer and then bitch about the crass publishing world that won’t run your stuff. We’re still a capitalist country, and writing to some degree is a capitalist enterprise, when it’s not a total sin to try to make a living and court an audience. “Read what excites you,” would be advice, and even if you don’t imitate it you will learn from it. . . . I would like to think that in a country this large—and a language even larger—that there ought to be a living in it for somebody who cares, and wants to entertain and instruct a reader.

JOHN UPDIKE