The Pursuit of Writing and the Problem of Entitlement

Entitlement operates at a more basic and often unconscious level. It’s a kind of defensive snobbery, a delusion that the world and its constituent parts—whether a product or a piece of art or a loved one—exist to please you.

This is why I often find it disheartening to eavesdrop on people at the annual Association of Writers & Writing Programs’ conference and book fair, for instance. So many of the conversations seem to be about why this panel sucked or that writer is overrated.

I understand the temptation to talk smack. It’s daunting to be surrounded by ten thousand people who all want the same thing: the adoration of readers. Especially given the dwindling audience for poetry and literary fiction and nonfiction. People wind up feeling powerless, which leads them to seek the cheapest available form of power: the power to judge.

But entitlement is the enemy of artistic progress, which requires patience and gratitude and, above all, humility. You don’t grow as a writer by writing off other people’s efforts. You grow as a writer by respecting the process.

Steve Almond, in Poets & Writers, on the writing process and the pursuit of mutual respect among writers.

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Photo: tjfaust, Flickr