It Has Always Been Difficult

From “A Q&A with Agent Georges Borchardt,” by Jofie Ferrari-Adler, Poet & Writers (September/October 2009):

Georges Borchardt (photo by Pieter Van Hattem) …in general, good authors have always been fairly miserable. They are now. They were then. It's always been a somewhat alien existence. Most authors still need to have a profession, usually in academia but not always, to sustain themselves. Especially the better ones, who don't want to compromise and just want to write what they feel like writing. But I don't think it has become much more difficult. It has always been difficult. I would not advise any of my friends to become writers as a career.

I think you're an artist because you have to be an artist. I don't think it's ever been easy. It's not easy for musicians. It's not easy for painters. But it has never been easy for those people. When Cézanne showed his first paintings, people laughed at him. They thought they were ludicrous. Van Gogh only sold one painting in his lifetime. To be an artist has always been difficult. To be an artist in the United States has been probably even more difficult than elsewhere because the arts are not considered all that valuable here.

If somebody asks you what you do and you say, "I'm a writer," the next question will be, "But what do you do for a living?"