Nobody ever became a writer by wanting to be one – F. Scott Fitzgerald to his daughter

A while back, I came across a book called “Posterity” – it has a collection of letters from a wide array of people – Writers, Artists, Politicians, Businessmen, written to people in their lives. These letters shed light on how they thought, what they valued, and what helped them get to where they are.

A letter from F Scott Fitzgerald to his daughter, Frances Scott “Scottie” Fitzgerald, particularly caught my eye. It talks about the value of “good work”, and how the road can be quite hard. Sharing some excerpts below:

F. Scott Fitzgerald

“Don’t be a bit discouraged about the story not being tops. At the same time, I’m not going to encourage you about it, because, after all, if you want to get into the big time, you have to have your own fences to jump and learn from experience. Nobody ever became a writer just by wanting to be one. If you have anything to say, anything you feel nobody has ever said before, you have got to feel it so desperately that you will find some way to say it that nobody has ever found before, so that the thing you have to say and the way of saying it blend as one matter – as indissolubly as if they were conceived together.

Let me preach again for one moment: I mean that what you have felt and thought will by itself invent a new style so that when people talk about style they are always a little astonished at the newness of it, because they think that is only style that they are talking about, when what they are talking about is the attempt to express a new idea with such force that it will have the originality of the thought. It is an awfully lonesome business, and as you know, I never wanted you to go into it, but if you are going into it at all, I want you to go into it knowing the sort of things that took me years to learn.

Why are you whining about such matters as study hall, etc. when you deliberately picked this school as the place you wanted to go above all places? Of course it is hard. Nothing any good isn’t hard, and you know you have never been brought up soft, or are you quitting on me suddenly? Darling, you know I love you, and I expect you to live up absolutely to what I laid out for you in the beginning.”

This letter resonated with me as it acknowledges the value of hard work, of keeping at it, and that how doing anything of value is not always particularly easy. I think there’s something to be said for continuing to hone your craft over time – whether you’re an artist, a writer, a programmer, a product manager, a designer – whatever you do, it is a craft that you need to keep chipping away at, every single day, till you master it.

I’ll leave you with this Calvin & Hobbes cartoon that sums this up very well šŸ™‚

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