Friday, August 21, 2009

Blood Sweat and Words

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.
--- Joseph Epstein, "Blood, Sweat, and Words"

Every once in a while one of my colleagues pops off in a division meeting or a hallway conversation about how hard it the academic life actually is. All the grading and dealing with lazy and recalcitrant students. Epstein, via Mencken, sets that argument to rights. For all of the wearying aspects of the academic workplace is truly is "lucky work" and I remember that every time things get tough.

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