[lit-ideas] Re: Fwd: Why philosophy?

  • From: "John McCreery" <john.mccreery@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Fri, 25 Apr 2008 23:49:23 +0900

On Fri, Apr 25, 2008 at 2:55 PM, Eric Yost <mr.eric.yost@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:

> Yes, indeed. One must separate the writing one does to pay the chichi
> villa's maintenance fee, tune up the 1936 Bugati, expand the hothouse for
> more orchids, etc., from the writing one does because one must.

A friend in Japan, who built a successful business translating computer
documentation for Fujitsu in the heyday of mainframe computers gave a talk
to SWET (the Society of Writers, Editors and Translators) in which he
distinguished writers from people who write for a living.

Writers, he said, write something, for example, the great American novel,
and then try to sell it. People who write for a living never put pen to
paper or turn on their word processors without knowing clearly in advance
what they will be paid for what they produce.

I was moved to observe that this is not always so. At The Word Works, we
frequently take jobs and negotiate payments after they are done. Oddly
enough I suppose, from the perspective of those who imagine that paying as
little as possible is what business people aim for, we are often paid more
than we would have asked for, making it a useful strategy to mumble in a
humble sort of way, "Gee, I don't know. What will your budget stand?"

Still Larry (his name was Larry) made what seemed to me a useful
distinction. Those of us for whom writing is a craft and a business (and at
times great fun as well) are a different breed of cat from those obsessed
with the notion that something inside has to get out in the form of written
words. There is pleasure in honing a craft, real joy in moments when
artistry peaks; but, if true to our calling, we never lose sight of the fact
that we write not for ourselves but for others and expect to be compensated.

No villa or Bugatti in my case, however. Just the life of which some
glimpses are available at http://gallery.mac.com/jlmccreery

I am a lucky man.


John McCreery
The Word Works, Ltd., Yokohama, JAPAN
Tel. +81-45-314-9324

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