Eating Some Words

Dateline: student newspaper

By: Zachary McCoy

File Under: curtis sittenfeld, english, new york times

Listening to a New York Time’s bestselling author is a pretty great thing to happen during the day. Listening to a New York Time’s bestselling author while receiving a free lunch is beyond my limited capabilities to describe.

On Feb. 8, I—along with four other English majors here at the Mount—got the pleasure of hearing Curtis Sittenfeld (author of bestselling novels “Prep,” “American Wife” and “The Man of My Dreams”) talk about her own writing experience while enjoying a salad and cake.

As someone who studies words and their uses, hearing a bestselling author talk is tantamount to being Moses on Mount Sinai hearing the Ten Commandments for the first time. As I sat there enjoying a delicious salad, I listened to the words of Curtis Sittenfeld. She read a passage from her new book, which is about two psychic sisters and the predictions one makes. I was blown away by her powerful storytelling and to hear an author read their own work exactly how they want it read.

But the pinnacle of the event was prompted by a simple question by an audience member. The audience member asked Sittenfeld when she first fell in love with writing, and Sittenfeld gave her the best answer any person who studies English could want to hear from a bestselling author.

Sittenfeld answered the following question: when did you first realize you loved to write. Sittenfeld answered something like this (paraphrased):

“The thing is, most professional writers don’t love to write. I mean, I am not on that extreme category where it feels like bleeding on the page, but writing is work. It’s not like I don’t enjoy it—I do, but the people who love writing, those people are the ones who do it as a hobby, and there is nothing wrong with that.

It’s weird because it’s the only hobby people think they should get paid for. They write and think it should be easy to get this published, but it’s not easy. So, though I am a writer, and I love what I do, I can’t say that I love all of it all the time.”

That answer really got me thinking. I am an aspiring writer, I study English, and yet often I feel out of place because I am not always in love with what I am doing. There are plenty of times where writing isn’t my passion—it is something I do because I am good at it. I often felt shame because of this, as if I should constantly be writing and being inspired and loving everything I do like some of my fellow English majors. Yet Sittenfeld’s words gave me some peace of mind. They reminded me that your passion is not always something you are in love with, it’s just something you have to do. I have to write, it’s as much as part of me as my own arms, but that doesn’t mean I always have to love it