A Privileged Job Indeed
'Some writers like to make a show of their struggle, thereby demonstrating just how great their own grit is. Perhaps the most famous among them was Gustave Flaubert, who wrote letter after letter to his mistress Louise Colet, groaning about the difficulties he encountered in composition: struggling all day over a paragraph, achieving no more than a single page after a full week at his desk...I have never liked to suggest that writing is grinding, let alone brave work. H. L. Mencken used to say that any scribbler who found writing too arduous ought to take a week off to work on an assembly line, where he will discover what work is really like. The old boy, as they say, got that right. To be able to sit home and put words together in what one hopes are charming or otherwise striking sentences is, no matter how much tussle may be involved, lucky work, a privileged job. The only true grit connected with it ought to arrive when, thinking to complain about how hard it is to write, one is smart enough to shut up and silently grit one’s teeth.'
--from the latest small masterpiece by Joseph Epstein, one of the finest essayist you'll find writing anywhere in the English language. You can review several earlier mentions of him here. We played a small role in resolving an Epstein-related mystery recently. A reader working on a doctoral dissertation wrote to ask us the source of an earlier Epstein quote we had posted, and we could only point him to a secondary source. Needing to trace it back to its original source, the doctoral candidate was stumped. Why not email the author himself and just ask him, we suggested, sending along Epstein's bio page from Northwestern University (from which he retired not long ago, though he retains an emeritus status). Sure enough, he did just that, and Epstein promptly emailed back, settling the issue.