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Faulkner’s Resolve for the New Year

William Faulkner

If you need some resolve for your New Year’s resolutions, may I suggest you borrow it from Mr. William Faulkner? I’ve been reading his Paris Review Interview, and it’s full of hard, raw literary determination.


Is there any possible formula to follow in order to be a good novelist?


Ninety-nine percent talent . . . ninety-nine percent discipline . . . ninety-nine percent work. He must never be satisfied with what he does. It never is as good as it can be done. Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do. Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself. An artist is a creature driven by demons. He don’t know why they choose him and he’s usually too busy to wonder why. He is completely amoral in that he will rob, borrow, beg, or steal from anybody and everybody to get the work done . . . The writer’s only responsibility is to his art.

Faulkner goes on to say that “If a writer has to rob his mother, he will not hesitate; the ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’ is worth any number of old ladies.” He also says that he wrote As I Lay Dying in “about six weeks in the spare time from a twelve-hour-a-day job at manual labor.”

I’m pretty sure that I’ll never write a novel, much less an American classic, in six weeks — no matter how many or how few hours of manual labor I’m doing alongside of it. But I will gladly take a measure of the aspiration and a quaff of Faulkner’s beloved bourbon with my passage into new year.

About Nick Arvin

Author of The Reconstructionist + a couple other books.

One comment on “Faulkner’s Resolve for the New Year

  1. susannadonato
    December 30, 2011

    Not to mention the confidence – “Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors” – oh, no worries, then. But I suppose confidence can lead to perseverance and that’s the only way.

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This entry was posted on December 29, 2011 by in Uncategorized.

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