If you want to be a writer, find yourself a day job that is dull – taking as little mental energy as possible  – but that alsoentrance pays well, says Katherine Anne Porter.

Don’t do what she (and I) did and work for newspapers or magazines.  “Do anything, anything at all,” rather than that.

“After that [her time with a newspaper] I always took little dull jobs that didn’t take my mind and wouldn’t take all of my time, and that, on the other hand, paid me just enough to subsist.”

Which led to its own problems.  “I think I’ve onlyspent about ten percent of my energies on writing. The other ninety percent went to keeping my head above water. And I think that’s all wrong. Even Saint Teresa said, ‘I can pray better when I’m comfortable,’ and she refused to wear her haircloth shirt or starve herself.

“I don’t think living in cellars and starving is any better for an artist than anyone else [though] sometimes the artist has to take it, because it is the only possible way of salvation, if you’ll forgive that old-fashioned word.

“[But]… I think I probably could have written better if I’d been a little more comfortable.”

From The Paris Review Interviews.  Interviewed by Barbara Thompson Davis.  Issue 29.
Learn From My Mistake is a regular column on the Creative Intelligence Blog.


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