Sunday, September 24, 2017

What Writers Say, Part 25: William Faulkner on What Makes a Good Novelist

When asked what it takes to be a good novelist, American Nobel Prize laureate William Faulkner answered, "Ninety-nine percent talent ... 99 percent discipline ... 99 percent work. He must never be satisfied with what he does. It is never as good as it can be done. Always dream and shoot higher that you know you can do."

Of course, Faulkner's advice applies to any profession, but he saw writing as a highly individualized craft. While businesspeople have a responsibility to their clients, coworkers, and stockholders, and environment, Faulkner said, "The writer's only responsibility is to his art." Indeed, he saw the writer as a messenger of the art, a conveyor of human condition: "If I had not existed, someone else would have written me, Hemingway, Dostoyevsky, all of us."

That sort of selfless thinking will surely help writers produce for the sake of their art, not themselves.