Harlan Ellison On Writing

Harlan Ellison On Writing

Writing is the hardest work in the world.

I have been a bricklayer and a truck driver, and I tell you – as if you haven't been told a million times already – that writing is harder.


And nobler

and more enriching.

When you're all alone out there, on the end of the typewriter, with each new story a new appraisal by the world of whether you can still get it up or not, arrogance and self-esteem and deep breathing are all you have.

It often looks like egomania.

I assure you it's the bold coverup of the absolutely terrified.

I don't know how you perceive my mission as a writer, but for me it is not a responsibility to reaffirm your concretized myths and provincial prejudices.

It is not my job to lull you with a false sense of the rightness of the universe.

This wonderful and terrible occupation of recreating the world in a different way, each time fresh and strange, is an act of revolutionary guerrilla warfare.

I stir the soup.

I inconvenience you.

I make your nose run and your eyeballs water.

The only thing worth writing about is people. People.  Human beings.  Men and women whose individuality must be created, line by line, insight by insight.

If you do not do it, the story is a failure.

There is no nobler chore in the universe than holding up the mirror of reality and turning it . . . . .slightly,

so we have a new and different perception of the commonplace,

the everyday,

the 'normal',

the obvious.

People are reflected in the glass.

The fantasy situation into which you thrust them is the mirror itself.

And what we are shown should illuminate and alter our perception of the world around us.

Failing that, you have failed totally.

The trick is not becoming a writer.  

The trick is staying a writer.

Now begin in the middle,

and later learn the beginning;

the end will take care of itself.


text (c) Harlan Ellison, from various sources



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