Monday, October 17, 2011

give your son a thousand dollars a year for five years and tell him to go to the devil

Go forth and listen to W. Somerset Maugham speak about writing. Here. This is a recording from 1951 and is just wonderful. The title of this post, as you will hear, is Maugham's advice to a well-to-do lady in Boston whose son is desirous of a career in literature and who wanted some advice from this esteemed gentleman. Maugham is amusing, honest, and deliciously cutting. But honestly! You must take a little part of your day to listen. You could even click here.

or here.

But I have included some of my choice favourite snippits to lure you to click here and listen:

It is in an author’s power to mould his personality. Of course life will to some extent mould it for him. We are all creatures of circumstance and we should none of us be what we are but for our environment and the happy accidents, chance encounters, trials, pains and pleasures which have befallen us.

Personality is the writer’s stock and trade.

All experience – even the most ordinary and insignificant – is grist to his mill.

Life is the novelist’s business and he can only know about it and write about it with truth and significance if he participates in it.

Without a great deal more than a nodding acquaintance to art and literature, science and philosophy his personality will remain incomplete

The only valid and sensible reason I know for adopting the profession of literature is that you have so strong and urgent a desire to write that you simply cannot resist it.

~W. Somerset Maugham


  1. Ha! I like his last comment.

    And I think it was Andre Gide who said that anyone who can possibly resist writing a novel should not hesitate to do so.

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