Wednesday, January 31, 2018

`To Dispel What Moves You Overmuch'

To talk shop with a young writer is to be reminded how peculiar a job we have chosen. By definition it calls for solitude, the more the better. And yet I learned to write in a disciplined fashion in a newsroom, a noisy, argumentative place haunted by editors. My office, in comparison, is a monkish sanctuary. We can’t be “Isolatoes,” as Melville called the crew of the Pequod, each “living on a separate continent of his own.” Our job calls for a merging of opposite impulses – solitude and company, relaxed openness and discipline, confidence and self-skepticism. The young writer I met with seems on her way to such a fruitful balance. She sweats every syllable and gets the job done. Her temperament is cool and assessing. She seems not overly impressed with herself but knows she’s good. I went her a copy of Yvor Winters’ “To a Young Writer,” which concludes:

“Write little; do it well.
Your knowledge will be such,
At last, as to dispel
What moves you overmuch.”

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