[S]eriously—is writing really all that difficult? Yes, of course, it is; I know this personally—but is it that much more difficult than other things? Is it more difficult than working in a steel mill, or raising a child alone, or commuting three hours a day to a deeply unsatisfying cubicle job, or doing laundry in a nursing home, or running a hospital ward, or being a luggage handler, or digging septic systems, or waiting tables at a delicatessen, or—for that matter—pretty much anything else that people do?
Not really, right?
In fact, I’m going to go out on a limb here and share a little secret about the writing life that nobody likes to admit: Compared to almost every other occupation on earth, it’s f*cking great.[…]
To choose to be a mere writer in this tearful world, then (either for pleasure, or for a living) is a profoundly luxurious act. Because let’s keep it in perspective, writers: Our books don’t exactly feed the hungry. We ain’t saving the planet here, people.
But even more than being a luxurious act, writing is a voluntary act. Becoming a novelist, then, is not some sort of dreadful Mayan curse, or dark martyrdom that only a chosen few can withstand for the betterment of humanity. … If you’re lucky, you might be able to make a small living out of this thing. If you’re exceedingly lucky, other people might come to appreciate your gifts. If you are phenomenally lucky, you might become lionized in your own lifetime, like the great Philip Roth himself.
And if that should ever happen to you—if you should ever find yourself both successful and loved—please do try to keep in mind that you have been blessed, not blighted.
Gilbert isn’t alone: As British novelist Amelia E. Barr counseled aspiring writers in 1901, “One of the great helps to success is to be cheerful; to go to work with a full sense of life.” More than a century later, the great Ray Bradbury made it his legacy to advocate for writing with joy.